michaeldoud

IMDb member since August 2019
    Lifetime Total
    50+
    IMDb Member
    10 months

Reviews

Emma.
(2020)

First Hit: This version of the Jane Ashton tale, isn't very funny, somewhat long at over two hours, and, at times, oddly entertaining.
First Hit: This version of the Jane Ashton tale, isn't very funny, somewhat long at over two hours, and, at times, oddly entertaining.

I'm not a big fan of period pieces, and this one spends a lot of time showing us how the class structure and social hierarchy in England produced rude behavior.

The rude behavior is characterized by having the people guessing what others think and then respond without knowing what they really think. The culmination of this lack of communication is when Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) and George Knightley (Johnny Flynn) are under a tree, having extreme difficulty telling each other how they feel about each other.

The innuendos, the backhanded slights, and the occasional direct put-downs throughout this story were, on occasion, amusing. Still, mostly they struck me as arrogant attacks on people who had less social standing than others.

Emma is a rich girl in her early twenties, living in a large house on an estate in England. She lives there with her father, Mr. Woodhouse (Bill Nighy). It is near a small town, and because of her wealth, she's looked up to by everyone in the village. When Emma walks into a store, everyone bows or curtsies. She hires friendships and people to spend time with her; Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) is one such person.

We watch Emma try to influence and control who gets engaged to whom, including Harriet. Emma is devoted to her father and has no intention of ever marrying. Emma is also forever being prodded and challenged by Knightly, her neighbor.

Knightley lives in a vast empty estate by himself. Interior shots of the house show most of the furniture covered up.

Although I didn't like the character, Taylor-Joy was good as the arrogant Emma. Nighy was appropriately clueless as Emma's father. Flynn did a terrific job of being the rich neighbor who suddenly harbored deeper feelings for Emma. Goth was sublime. She portrayed innocence and faith that Emma was looking out for her in a beautiful way. Eleanor Catton wrote this screenplay, that to me, was way to elongated. Autumn de Wilde directed this movie. It was at least 40 minutes too long and uninspired.

Overall: Despite the brief moments of hilarity, it was painfully long and contrived.

Burden
(2018)

First Hit: This is a compelling true story about racial change in a small South Carolina town.
First Hit: This is a compelling true story about racial change in a small South Carolina town.

The movie documents this story about how Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund), who was part of the Ku Klux Clan, decides to change his beliefs and makes amends because of his love for a woman.

In this small town, the Klan is still alive and well. Tom Griffin (Tom Wilkinson) is the head honcho in more ways than one. He's on the verge of opening a Ku Klux Klan museum in an old movie theater, and the most impoverished people in town rent furniture and televisions from him. His repossession rate for his rentals is high. He intimidates the town with this control.

Burden works for Griffin and is his prime repossessor. Griffin treats Mike like his own son. On one repossession, he meets Judy (Andrea Riseborough), whose current boyfriend is behind in his payments, and Burden takes the television. Judy throws a temper tantrum and storms out to the car. She attempts to leave, but the car won't start and Buden, gets the car started for her. The looks they give each other show that there is going to be a connection.

Judy has a young boy whose best friend is a young black child. The relationship between the young boys is a reminder that when Burden was young, his best friend was Clarence Brooks (Usher Raymond). Clarence is black, and because he's having trouble making payments on the rented television, Mike has arrived to repossess the tv. Seeing Judy's boy playing with Clarence's son brings up memories of their past friendship, and conflicting feelings based on his current beliefs as a Klansman.

The town has a large black population that comes together at the church that is led by Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker). Kennedy preaches love, forgiveness, and bringing people together non-violently. As you might expect, with the KKK museum opening in town, the black community is upset, and Kennedy leads the non-violent protest.

At one point, Judy puts it to Burden that he has to pick between her or his continuing to be part of the Klan. This choice begins Mike's transition from his being Klan oriented to seeing how it is hurting the community and people he cares about.

Hedlund was amazing as Burden. The way he talked, scattered his gaze when communicating with anyone, and how his walk embodied someone who was doing little to further himself was well done. As he found his voice, he showed subtle ways to make his character believable as he evolved. Whitaker was wonderous as the town's reverend whose goal was to create a peaceful difference. When he brings unexpected guests home, the way he tried to make it right with his family was perfectly portrayed. Riseborough was terrific as Judy. She captured a young woman who stood for her beliefs and had enough compassion to let Burden find his way to her. Wilkinson was excellent and utterly horrible as the town's Klan leader. He made me believe he was a Klansman. Andrew Heckler wrote and directed this true story. I loved seeing the real people at the end of the film as the credits rolled.

Overall: This was a wonderfully presented story about how racism tears communities apart and how love, forgiveness, and acceptance can put them back together.

Greed
(2019)

First Hit: Confusing movie about important subjects; income discrepancy, responsibility, and revenge.
First Hit: Confusing movie about important subjects; income discrepancy, responsibility, and revenge.

I'm not very sure on how to write this review as the disjointed presentation of the subjects mentioned above left me wondering about the film's intent.

At the end of the movie, next to still photos of the film's scenes, we are given information about how clothing designers, companies, and sellers make billions of dollars of profit while the people who sew the clothing make, as little as $2.47 for a 10-hour day of work.

The overall story follows Sir Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan), Greedy McCreadie, as he's referred to by many, from his high school days when he left school, focused on making money to his 60th birthday party. As we learn, he was always conniving someone to play cards, or play find the queen or ways to buy something low and sell it high.

How he got into the fashion industry was more of an accident than a purpose. From a part-time endeavor, McCreadie excelled at the art of negotiating extremely low clothing manufacturing prices. Seeing an opportunity to make a lot of money with these skills, he decides to open a clothing store, and it becomes very successful. We see him in various scenes negotiating rock bottom prices. We also see the aftermath and conditions these workers work and live under given these negotiated low manufacturing costs.

The focal point of the film's story is he's giving himself a costly 60th birthday party in a Greek beachside villa. We know it is expensive because he's trying to spend less than £1,000,000 for entertainment. He's also invited some celebrities, and because many cannot make it, he hires celebrity stand-ins. One funny bit has McCreadie looking at these stand-ins in the makeup room, and when he says, and you're George Michael, the guy says "yes," and McCreadie looks at his assistant and says, "well how's that going to work, George Michael is dead." They are also building a small version of a coliseum where there will be a gladiator scene with a real lion.

Then there are vital scenes showing McCreadie's privileged ways by wanting the refugees, who are living on a public beach, removed because it won't look good for the guests. There are scenes where a government agency is questioning McCreadie about his businesses, the number of bankruptcies he has gone through, how he has all his assets in offshore accounts and countries and can live so well. In contrast, others that work for him or his manufacturers suffer.

Then there are the personal relationships. McCreadie's son Finn (Asa Butterfield) hates him as by his open discussion about killing his father. His ex-wife Samantha (Isla Fisher), is still very close with him, and as we discover early in the story, she care-takes much of his offshore money.

Lastly, the revenge component is shared through a couple of characters. All through the film, we track McCreadie's official biographer Nick (David Mitchell), who is probably weak and influenced to write a positive book, as he is talking with family and party attendees. He learns through Naomi (Shanina Shaik) that through decisions made by McCreadie and a manufacturer, her mother got fired, She had to find another job and ended up in a factory that burned down, her mother suffocated to death. Naomi has a sincere dislike for McCreadie. Her unattachment from the revenge she gets is a fascinating subject that stayed with me for hours after seeing the film.

Coogan is rather good as this arrogant, self-aggrandizing, prick of a man. The scene where he is chastising a color decorator in a new store location about the interior color and finally McCreadie says to use this one, holding up a Fuschia colored sample is funny and sad. What's precious about it is that later one we revisit this store, and nobody wants to shop there because of the color, and McCreadie rails, who pick this color? Fisher is compelling as the ex-wife who lays back and reaps the benefits of her ex-husband's ways. Mitchell is terrific as the hesitant biographer. In the end, his understanding of Naomi's actions are well done. Shaik was probably the best in this film. Her compassion for the Greek children living on the beach, finding ways to make everything work, and explanation for pushing the button was sublime. Butterfield was keen as the intimidated son who just wanted to be seen, heard, and respected. Sophie Cookson (as the daughter Lily McCreadie) was great as the daughter trying to live a Kardashian life by having her every moment filmed. The scene where she gives food to the homeless on the beach is so telling. Michael Winterbottom both wrote and directed this film, and I just didn't think it came together well. The oddly timed switching between different scenes, McCreadie's early life, the party, and in front of the government committee were well placed. It came across as confusing.

Overall: There are good points made by this movie, but the confusing story made it difficult to piece it all together.

Boze Cialo
(2019)

First Hit: I liked this film because of how Bartosz Bielenia took ahold of his character, Daniel, and made me believe.
First Hit: I liked this film because of how Bartosz Bielenia took ahold of his character, Daniel, and made me believe.

The premise is that Daniel (Bielenia) is in juvie for crimes that may have included murder. The film opens with him and others, in a small room, sawing wood with hand saws. Their instructor, who is also their guard, is imploring them to make cuts at the right angle and to use the whole blade. The set is dark with little light, and it's more the noise of the blades going back and forth that provide the tone of this initial scene.

The guard steps out, and the boys grab Daniel, pull down his pants, hold him down, while another sodomizes him. The scene is graphic and impactful because of the way Daniel deals with it - stoically. These are rough and lost young men.

A following on scene has this same group of boys standing in a room that has is set up as a chapel. Daniel is the lone altar boy, and you can see in the other boy's faces that he's a joke to them, especially after what just happened. Father Tomaz (Lukasz Simlat) comes in and gives an inspiring talk, and Daniel follows every word.

Daniel is to be released soon and will take a job in a sawmill in a distant city. He tells Father Tomaz that he wishes he could go to a seminary to become an ordained priest. Tomaz tells him because he's a felon, that will not be possible.

Looking for a place to stay after he sees the sawmill he's supposed to work at, Daniel finds a small town with a small church and goes inside. One thing leads to another, and he finds himself filling in as a Father (taking the name Father Tomaz) in this church while the resident priest is away in a detox center.

His natural compassion, boldness, and creativity help bring this small community together. He does this with inspired sermons and helping the town through a traumatic grieving process after they recently lost seven of their neighbors in a tragic accident.

The charade works until one of his old juvie nemesis tries to blackmail him.

Bielenia is amazing. The camera loves him. He just glows on the screen. He embodies this character with a real sense of authenticity, and I found myself hoping that he would never get caught masquerading as a priest. Eliza Rycembel, as Eliza, is equally wonderful. She is the first person that Daniel meets in this small town, and their relationship is engaging from the beginning. Aleksandra Konieczna, as Lidia, is excellent as the caretaker of the church's processes and premises. Barbara Kurzaj as the vilified widow who divides the town because of the actions of her former husband, is terrific. Mateusz Pacewicz wrote a powerful and inspirational screenplay. Jan Komasa captured this small Polish town realistic shots and scenes that gave this story lots of life.

Overall: This is a wonderful story that is brought to life by sublime acting and direction.

The Way Back
(2020)

First Hit: This is a very well done film about redemption.
First Hit: This is a very well done film about redemption.

There are lots of films made about someone redeeming themselves after having a difficult time. Not all of them do it well; this one does.

Here we have a well-crafted storyline that evolves as the character evolves. By slowly revealing the depth of Jack Cunningham's (Ben Affleck) angst, the audience is interested and wants to know more with each passing frame.

In an early opening scene, we find him in a liquor store buying a box full of beer and hard liquor. It is a holiday, and he's heading over to his sister's home. The stop at the store is telling because the store proprietor seems to know him, and the amount he's purchased is unquestioned.

Cunningham is an alcoholic. He works in construction. After work, he stops by a dive bar where he is well known and makes idle bar talk and jokes with other patrons. On those nights, he's help home by a fellow customer.

While showering the next morning, he's got a can of beer in the soap holder, and while the water washes over him, he pounds down another beer before he's even out of the shower. We see this scene multiple times; it is his habit. We also see him on the job with his ever-present metal coffee mug, which isn't filled with coffee, but vodka. He drinks on the job.

Jack doesn't care about much except Angela (Janina Gavankar), his ex-wife, which we discover because he calls and leaves a message on her phone. He also shows enthusiasm when he visits his sister Beth (Michaela Watkins) because he enjoys and appears to love, and care about, her two children.

Outside of these two things, he lives a day to day existence of going to work, going to the bar, and being led home to fall asleep in his clothes. He begins each day with a shower and a beer.

He gets offered a part-time job coaching the local high school team because he was their best player some twenty years prior. Back then, he was so good he was offered a full scholarship to Kansas University but didn't take it. We learn why, in an intimate conversation with one of his basketball players.

Watching Jack decide to try this coaching job was another great scene. He downs at least two six-packs of beer while holding his phone next to his ear, practicing his speeches as to why he can't take the coaching job. Outstanding scene.

It's little scenes like this that make this film work well. Another such scene is Jack's lunch with Angelea and their subsequent joint attendance to a friend's son's birthday party. Powerful scenes that open the door to the story a little bit farther.

The basketball scenes are some of the best I've seen shot for a film because they were very realistic to high school basketball. The movie gets it right with the noise of the gym, the anxious players, and the boys' willingness to buy into someone that knows basketball. Jack knows how to motivate them, as he motivates himself into caring about something more than his loss.

Affleck is amazing. His performance, by far, is the best acting by a man this year. Because of his very own public battle with alcohol, he makes this character real. He shows us that we know that he knows what it is like to carry the demons of addiction around. Gavankar is terrific as his former wife, who wants to move on with her life. She shows equanimity in both loving her former husband and reviling his behavior as an alcoholic. Watkins is superb as Cunningham's sister. Her wistful ways of sharing her wish for her brother to seek help, are spot-on. The boys on the basketball team were outstanding. Brad Ingelsby wrote a dynamic screenplay that takes us on a road of discovery. Gavin O'Connor showed great and deft skills by giving the audience the right amount of information in each new scene to let the audience engage in this story as it unfolds.

Overall: This film shows how a film can be crafted by someone who cares about the story they want to tell.

The Invisible Man
(2020)

First Hit: Despite Elizabeth Moss's excellent performance, the film dragged on.
First Hit: Despite Elizabeth Moss's excellent performance, the film dragged on.

Moss, as Cecilia Kass, plays a wife that was being controlled by her husband, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), and is looking to escape his clutches.

The story begins with Cecilia sneaking out of bed, packing some clothes, and sneaking out of the house. As she moves through the home and the surrounding property, we figure out that Adrian must be wealthy because the home is amazingly new, large and modern, and the walled-in yard is extravagant. There is also a quick blurb with someone saying he's done very well in the world of optical science.

Cecilia's sister, Emily (Harriet Dyer), picks her up on an empty two-lane road near the home, and just as Emily attempts to ask why Cecilia is doing this, Adrian's fist comes through the window and tries to pull Cecilia out of the car. The two just escape his clutches and speed down the road.

Cecilia gets dropped off at James Lanier's (Aldis Hodge) home. James is a police officer and lives with his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). Cecilia feels safe there as we learn that her husband doesn't know about James or where he lives.

Cecilia learns that Adrian has committed suicide, which, to Cecilia, seems out of character. Adrian's brother Tom (Michael Dorman) is the executor of Adrian's estate and tells Cecilia that she is to receive $5M in payments.

However, strange things begin to happen to Cecilia, and she suspects that Adrian is still alive and invisible. This is the beginning of great acting by Moss to pretend this invisible person is stalking her while trying to convince others that her experiences are real. Yet, this is also where the film begins to wane because we just spend too much time, in different circumstances, watching Cecilia evading an invisible Adrian.

We all know how it is going to end, so there is no surprise. However, the way it is handled by Cecilia is good and does add to the enjoyment of the overall film.

I didn't think any of the relationships were well developed, which was disappointing. Don't know why Cecilia would even be with Adrian in the first place. Where did Cecilia and James know each other from? What was Tom and Adrian's relationship based upon? The film tried to make the audience believe what was said, but the over subservient way people acted with Adrian seemed out of character.

Moss was excellent at portraying fear of an invisible person, and she showed this through her very expressive face. Hodge was wonderful as Cecilia's friend and protector. Dyer was perfect as Cecilia's sister in the way she was protective, questioned, and cared about her sister. Reid was terrific as James's daughter. Dorman was good as Adrian's subservient brother. Leigh Whannell wrote and directed this movie. The writing was good, but the story got old waiting for Cecilia (and the audience) to see Adrian and to get to the end. Part of the problem for me was the lack of character and relationship development.

Overall: This film could have been better.

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu
(2019)

First Hit: The film was a slow evolution and stretched at times, but also it was an engaging story about slow smoldering love.
First Hit: The film was a slow evolution and stretched at times, but also it was an engaging story about slow smoldering love.

From the opening moments after Marianne (Noemie Merlant) lands on the island and treks up to a large stately home and is greeted by the housekeeper Sophie (Luana Bajrami), we know this is going to unfold slowly.

The premise is that Marianne is there to secretly paint Heloise (Adele Haenel) who has been pulled out of a convent, where she wanted to be, by her mother, La Comtesse (Valeria Golino). Heloise is to take her sister's place in a marriage to a man in Milan, Italy. Her sister committed suicide. The painting is to be sent to the perspective suiter.

To secretly paint Heloise, La Comtesse has told Heloise that Marianne is there to be her companion for walks. On their strolls, Heloise is brooding, inquisitive, and sullen. But the audience knows there is something deeper brewing.

The side story with Sophie being pregnant and wanting an abortion is well done. The moment she subjects herself to a procedure in a home, with a baby by her side is enormously powerful and thought-provoking.

The lighting and sets are both stark and dark but they create a beautiful space for love to flourish.

Merlant is terrific and compelling as the artist whose job it is to capture the essence and beauty of Heloise. Hanel is a smolderingly sublime reflection of beauty in this role. As a woman who is slowly falling in love, she perfect. Bajrami is divine as the pregnant housekeeper. The scene, as described above, is very emotional. Celine Sciamma wrote and directed this film and it felt as though it came from her heart.

Overall: I loved the story, but I felt it took too long to develop.

The Call of the Wild
(2020)

First Hit: I was very distracted by the computer-generated dog, Buck, that acted more like a human than a dog, therefore, I missed the power of the story.
First Hit: I was very distracted by the computer-generated dog, Buck, that acted more like a human than a dog, therefore, I missed the power of the story.

This film is based on the great Jack London short novel of the same name. From the moment we meet Buck, his looks and mannerisms reflect the humanization of the dog. Being a dog owner, I really disliked this. Reading into a dog's eyes and looks to reflect our human emotions is a fantasy I don't particularly like.

Basically, the story goes that Buck is stolen from his owner Judge Miller (Bradley Whitford), in Santa Clara, CA. While with the Judge, Buck had the run of Miller's home, and the opening scenes we see him eating whatever food he can find, and then he ruins a whole table full of food, by sampling or eating more food than a dog, of that size, could ever eat.

Now stolen from his home, Buck is shipped to Alaska and meets John Thornton (Harrison Ford), who is grumpy but sees something in Buck he likes and gives a wry smile.

Buck is purchased by the mail delivery team of Perrault (Omar Sy) and Francoise (Cara Lee). Although Buck is a huge dog, he's out of his element because Perrault and Francoise are dog sled mail delivery workers, and Buck has never been a working dog and knows nothing about snow or being a sled pulling dog. He's been a home dog.

Buck is mystified by the snow and then becomes demoralized after being hooked up to a harness and asked to pull a sled led by other computer-animated dogs. He does his best but, in a human way, makes mistakes.

But CGI Buck decides to become the best dog in the team, which comes across as another human aspect. The lead dog appreciates Bucks's efforts (more human emotions), but the entire movie audience knows what is coming, a confrontation with the lead husky.

This confrontation ultimately ends up in glory for Buck, Perrault, and Francois, but as the story would have it, Buck gets sold again to a greedy miner Hal (Dan Stevens) who wants to find gold. He and Thorton get into it, and bad blood arises over Hal's treatment of Buck.

Buck escapes Hal, finds Thornton, and they walk together into the wilderness, the call of the wild sort of speak.

Together they create an excellent partnership. Upon arriving at a remote cabin, they set up shop, and Buck starts to flirt with and hang out with timberwolves. Of course, there is one final predictable confrontation with Hal, and we all know what will happen.

There are lovely and poignant moments, and they mostly revolve around Thornton's grumpy demeanor and Buck's loving, caring way.

Not being able to forget just how humanized Buck was made to be, the film's real story about self-redemption and following your dream, was left on the cutting room floor.

Ford was terrific as John Thornton, a man who was still mourning the loss of his son. Sy was great and engaging as Perrault, the sled driver. Gee was excellent as Perrault's co-sled team driver. Michael Green wrote this screenplay. There wasn't anything wrong with the screenplay, but the execution of the CGI dog just failed the film. Chris Sanders did a reasonable job of directing this story, but the CGI hurt the effort, and Sanders is part to blame because he allowed too much humanization of Buck.

Overall: This was a difficult film to watch because it seemed too made up.

Downhill
(2020)

First Hit: Despite an excellent performance by Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Billie, this film goes downhill because of Will Ferrell as Pete.
First Hit: Despite an excellent performance by Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Billie, this film goes downhill because of Will Ferrell as Pete.

Most of you who have read this blog know that I'm not a big Will Ferrell fan. It was in this film that he shows how incapable he is of showing a depth of character. He had the opportunity to show real wisdom in this role, and with a partner like Louis-Dreyfus, who became an incredible, intense foil in this film, he didn't show up. Just as he didn't show up as the character struggling about his marriage in this film.

The story is about Billie, Pete, and their two sons Finn and Emerson, on a once in lifetime ski trip in the Alps. There is a slight tension as they check into the hotel, Billie's tense smile and expressions show it.

As the film wears on, there are moments when this tension subsides momentarily, but it is reflective when Billie has to keep reminding Pete to get off the phone and quit texting his workmate Zach (Zach Woods) and his new girlfriend Rosie (Zoe Chao). You get the sense that he's jealous of Zach.

When a controlled avalanche barrels down on the lodge deck where they are sitting down to eat, Pete runs away from his family out of panic. Leaving Billie to wrap her arms around Finn and Emerson protecting them from the snow crashing around them.

Pete's running away becomes the elephant in the room until they have cocktails with Rosie and Zach. Billie tells the story, and Pete tries to defend his behavior, which erupts into a huge fight bringing their marriage issues to the table.

Here is where Ferrell's failings as a dramatic actor come to fore. When the camera focuses on him and the expression in his narrowly spaced eyes, there isn't much at home. He's like a child, and the audience realizes what Billie has been dealing with, raising three children, not two.

As a side note, this is a remake of a film I saw in 2014, which was better in many ways.

Louis-Dreyfus is fantastic in this film. I've never seen her act in a dramatic role, and she excels here. She has a very expressive face, and it tells the story as you need to know it. Ferrell is like a man child. He has minimal range, and his previous role as an overgrown elf probably fits him perfectly. Miranda Otto (Charlotte), as the hotel representative who tries to give Billie advice about living her life more fully, is hilarious. Jesse Armstrong and Nat Faxon wrote a good screenplay. Faxon directed the film, and despite Ferrell's inability to put depth into his role, the rest of the film was terrific.

Overall: I was severely disappointed in the way Ferrell's performance hurt this story.

The Assistant
(2019)

First Hit: There is no coincidence that this film is out during the Harvey Weinstein trial.
First Hit: There is no coincidence that this film is out during the Harvey Weinstein trial.

This is a powerful film for numerous reasons. The most compelling aspect for me was that we never see the studio head, the person who has everyone in the story intimidated and contrite towards him. It is an essential and scary message. Another reason is that we are reading about Weinstein's trial in the newspaper for the past week, and he's been accused of doing just what this film is about. Then there is the way this film uses the unspoken issue about predatory sexual behavior to intimidate, coerce, and manipulate people.

The story begins by following Jane (Julia Garner), assistant to the studio head, from her early morning ritual of leaving her apartment and going to the office in downtown New York City. Entering the office, she's the first one there. She prepares, prints, and distributes reports. Then she turns on the lights on the rest of the floor and goes to the boss's office to clean up after him. It includes picking up an earring, wiping crumbs and stuff on the desk, and tellingly, cleaning off stains that are on the couch, which we suspect to be from a sexual encounter.

As the story moves on, other office workers arrive, they all carry an air of fear, afraid of doing something wrong, and we hear mumbled raised voices coming from behind the closed office door of the boss.

Phone calls are taken, plans rearranged, people don't smile. Jane gets routed a call from the boss's wife, who complains that her credit cards won't work, gets angry at Jane's attempt to placate her, and hangs up. The boss calls Jane and yells at her. The audience barely hears the mumbled yelling on the phone call. Jane's response is to type an email to her boss stating that she is sorry and it will never happen again.

This type of intimidation is the theme throughout the film.

The climax of Jane's concern is when she escorts a "new assistant," Sienna (Kristine Froseth), to a posh hotel. Sienna tells Jane that she was waitressing in Boise, Idaho when the boss told her she should come to NYC and become one of his assistants. We then learn that the boss leaves the office to visit Sienna at the hotel. When Jane takes her concern that the boss is misbehaving to the head of Human Resources, she once again gets intimidated. Inappropriate sex by the boss is never said but implied, and, as a final insult, Jane is told, "she's not the boss's type."

The way this film is shot, it almost feels voyeuristic. We don't see the boss. We only follow Jane. We carefully watch her actions, and all the conversations she has on the phone are muffled, barely audible. When the door is closed and the boss is yelling, we hear some of the swear words and when the boss is with a woman, we hear muffled laughter and other noises.

Garner is phenomenal. The way she internalizes her fear, her sadness, and disdain is expressed to the audience with subtle mouth movements and very expressive eyes. Everyone else is strong in their roles, but their characters are minor and don't warrant a mention here. Kitty Green wrote and directed this excellent portrayal of intimidation and predatory sexual abuse.

Overall: The impact of seeing this film stayed with me through the next day.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
(2020)

First Hit: This movie was absolutely horrible and a waste of time and money.
First Hit: This movie was absolutely horrible and a waste of time and money.

The original title of this film is "Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn." The title alone is a warning enough, and when you read it, it is all you'll need to know about this story. I do not know what the screenwriter or director was thinking, but it wasn't about making a movie that had conscious cognizant coherence.

From the get-go, this film is a mess. Using narrative and disjointed clips of film, to attempt to put the story in place and time was useless here because there really is no place or time.

I thought "Suicide Squad" was a quirky fun movie and where we meet Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) for the first time. She was odd, "out there," and on the edge of crazy. This film Birds of Prey is supposed to give us the backstory of Ms. Quinn. It is also a way to introduce other characters, the "Birds of Prey," consisting of Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), "The Huntress," aka Helena Bertinelli (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and "Black Canary," aka Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell).

There's little character development, so they use some narration and snippets of past stories to fill in the backstory of these characters.

This group of women come together because of and over the improbability of a young pickpocketing girl, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), swallowing a large, I mean colossally large diamond stolen from a thieving, conniving, and self-named lord of Gotham, Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).

Lots of fighting ensues, and we always know who wins. The fighting scenes are not well-choreographed and felt staged. The logic stream of the story was virtually non-existent while it seemed as though the director Cathy Yan threw together a bunch of clips of film scraps she shot with this cast doing stuff and called it a day.

Robbie is an excellent actress. She' has proven her abilities in many films. Therefore, I'm surprised she co-produced and acted in this hot mess. Despite her talents, this was not good work. Perez, who has been missed in recent years, did what she could with this limiting role. Winstead was the best of the lot. Her quiet demeanor and her story of how she came up with "The Huntress" was amusing when everyone else liked calling her "Crossbow." Smollett-Bell tried to make her character mean something but, again, the script and direction let her down. McGregor was okay as the foil for the Birds of Prey. Christina Hodson created a disjointed and lackluster screenplay with little substance. Yan has no business directing a film with this film as proof.

Overall: This movie was a total waste of time.

The Rhythm Section
(2020)

First Hit: This is Blake Lively's (as Stephanie Patrick) movie from beginning to end.
First Hit: This is Blake Lively's (as Stephanie Patrick) movie from beginning to end.

Blake Lively can act, and here we see how good she can be.

The story opens by letting us know that Patrick is a lost soul. She is slowly destroying herself by using heroin and supporting this habit through prostitution. We learn that Stephanie has turned to this life of self-destruction because she lost her entire family in a suspicious plane crash three years earlier. She was supposed to be on that plane.

A reporter named Keith Proctor (Raza Jaffrey) comes to the brothel and buys time with Stephanie so that he can speak with her about what he's working on. Proctor is investigating who are the people who planted the bomb on the plane that killed her parents. Patrick, unsure of Procter's real intention, dashes out of the room and gets the house bouncer to physically throw Proctor out. She doesn't want to be reminded of her pain.

However, Proctor left his business card, and as Patrick gets ready to hit up with another dose of smack, she decides to bolt out of the brothel ending up at Proctor's London apartment. The verbal sparring here is wonderfully done because Proctor holds his ground of just wanting to get more information and to give Patrick information about what really happened to the plane. Patrick, on the other hand, is utterly scared about having to face her own demons and re-live the emotional loss of her family.

Proctor has a room where there is a photo of each of the plane crash victims along with piles of folders containing information and evidence about what really happened on that plane. It includes information about who ordered the bombing, who made the bomb, and who set it off.

Getting the name of the person who built the bomb, Raza (Tawfeek Barhom), Patrick sets out to find him and get payback. But as she confronts Rasa face to face, in a moment of panic she cannot pull the trigger. However, because he's now been discovered, Raza finds and takes it out on Proctor.

With Proctor no longer being able to help, Patrick uses one more bit of information from the files she took from Proctor's apartment, a location on a map. Traveling to this location in a remote norther area of Scotland, she finds Iain Boyd "B" (Jude Law), a former MI6 agent.

She convinces B that she is going to kill the bomb maker and all the people associated with the bombing of the plane and asks him to train her. Skeptical of Stephanie's abilities, B relents and teaches her how to shoot, fight, and keep fit while also giving her information on where she might find Raza and the unknown mastermind.

The thing that is most compelling in this story is how slowly we see Patrick's incremental change from strung-out addict (pale, thin, haunting eyes, and bruised up) to someone who is not a fighting machine but a healthier person. We see her dive to right the wrong to her family and assuage her underlying guilt for not being on the plane with them.

Like an everyday person, Patrick never overwhelms anyone when she's fighting, she's authentically fighting for her life. She's appropriately scared and clearly driven. And this is what makes this story engaging as Stephanie makes her way to find and resolve her family's death.

All the scenes are well shot from the car chase scene to her training with B to the bus explosion. However, it is the time with Marc Serra (Sterling K. Brown), especially their last scene, where we see that Stephanie Patrick has learned what she needs to learn about herself and her abilities. She has freed herself from her past.

Lively is absolutely mesmerizing as this character. It is the grittiest role I've seen her in, and she nails it. Law is terrific as the elusive former MI6 Agent put to pasture. His direct approach to helping Patrick was excellent. Brown was engagingly cagey and incredible as the former CIA agent who sells information to bad people. Jaffrey was wonderful as the news reporter wanting to get to the truth. Mark Burnell wrote a powerful and pointedly direct script. Reed Morano got the best out of the actors while engagingly directing scenes keeping the audience fully engaged the entire time.

Overall: I really liked the way this story came together and the acting, all around, was superb.

Clemency
(2019)

First Hit: The slow eruption of sorrow by Alfre Woodard as Warden Bernadine Williams is formidable.
First Hit: The slow eruption of sorrow by Alfre Woodard as Warden Bernadine Williams is formidable.

Make no mistake, this is Woodard's film from beginning to end. As the warden of a prison that executes the individuals on death row, she faces up to her with a commitment to her job, strength, and affected vulnerability.

The film begins with Warden Williams presiding over an execution. The medical orderly botches needle insertion attempts. The camera focuses on Williams' face almost the whole time, and by reading the barely visible changes in expression, we know she's a percolating pot of unexpressed feelings.

Williams is married to Jonathan (Wendell Pierce), who is a high school teacher. We only find out about his work late in the film, but the scene where he's reading to his students provides a good indication of the depth and quality of the man he is.

There are moments the film explores their relationship with scenes in their home, and what we see is a man doing his best to reach out to his wife, and she is barely able to respond.

Bernadine is loyal to her job. She knows it is essential, but her own awareness that the job is eating her alive is minimal. When she's engaging prisoners, especially Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge), are both practical and carry an underlying heartfelt caring.

The focus of this story is between the time of the early botched execution and the execution of Woods. The story uses Major Logan Cartwright's (LaMonica Garrett) difficulty after the botched execution as to the power of responsibility to do one's job of pushing the buttons of death. There is this side story of Chaplain Kendricks (Michael O'Neill), who is the Chaplain that is there to assist the doomed prisoners. There is the anti-execution attorney Marty Lumetta (Richard Schiff) pleading to stay Woods's execution because evidence shows he probably wasn't the killer and because of the previously botched execution. Then there is Woods's own story and the effect of discovering he has a son just before his day of execution.

All of these stories are etched in Williams' face as she painfully goes through her duties of Warden.

The scene with Woods in his cell, trying to hurt himself, is painful to watch. I had to turn away for part of it. When Woods meets up with the mother of his son, her story of why she did what she did was so compelling. Deputy Warden Thomas Morgan's (Richard Gunn) support of Williams is shown in several scenes. The bar parking lot scene in which he asks for keys is reflective of his caring, help, and support.

The film, because the subject is dark, is mostly shot in darker tones. The Williams' home is not infused with light, the prison and prison walls are realistically portrayed in generic faded government colors. The yellow lines border each hallway in prison, guiding prisoners where they can walk, is poignantly shown.

However, the film is very slow-paced, and at times, I did want it to jump forward, but I also understand why it was done this way.

Woodard gives a career-defining performance. The subtle movements in her expressions, eyes, and body movement tell a compelling story, and it surely deserved an award nomination. Garrett was terrific as this hulking strong guard that had to succumb to his inner voice about participating in another execution. Pierce was extraordinary in his role as Bernadine's husband. Schiff was terrific as the prisoner rights attorney. O'Neill was perfect as the Chaplain. Hodge was remarkable and fantastic as the prisoner wrongly accused of murder facing death by execution. Gunn was excellent as a caring Deputy Warden. Chinonye Chukwu wrote and directed this film with both heart and intention. When the state takes a life, it affects everyone involved, including our society.

Overall: This was a study in outstanding acting by Woodard.

The Gentlemen
(2019)

First Hit: A few scenes were to fun watch, but as a film, it was poorly constructed.
First Hit: A few scenes were to fun watch, but as a film, it was poorly constructed.

I've never seen a Guy Ritchie film that I thought was constructed with thoughtfulness and skill. He either attempts to cover too much ground or is more inclined to use pop and dazzle to engage the audience.

In this film, he has to use narration throughout to create, set up, and deliver the story. He hides his inability to write a good screenplay by making the narration of his story part of the storyline his characters say to each other.

Specifically, watch most of the scenes between a dirt-digger detective and reporter Fletcher (Hugh Grant and Ray (Charlie Hunnam). Ray is the right-hand man and consigliere for Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), the weed lord of England. Because Fletcher is attempting to blackmail Mickey and Ray, he explains the whole story to the theater's audience by reading the screenplay with Ray.

This is the main issue with this film. Having to rely on this narration to provide a lot of the movie's context is troubling. However, I will say the way it is done here is better than having an unknown voice over-explanation.

The story as I saw it, was that Mickey wants to sell his vast marijuana growing and distribution empire to Matthew (Jeremy Strong). The reason for selling was unclear and unconvincing. Matthew is a wealthy eccentric Englishman who is intrigued with the possibility of buying this empire for $400M. However, it is a lot of money, and to drive the price down, Matthew engages "Dry Eye" (Henry Golding and a term used for Asians). Dry Eye makes an offer that Mickey scoffs at, but because the offer to sell to Matthew was supposed to be secret, Mickey is now on guard.

Then the story adds complexity because we learn that Matthew and Dry Eye are working some sort of side deal to assist each other in reducing the price, but each plans to screw the other as well.

Adding to this is Fletcher, who, through his detective work, documents all the goings-on between all the parties, which led to the script he reads from. His hopes are to sell the screenplay to Mickey and Ray for $20M so that Mickey and Ray will know all the subversive planning that is going on to drive the price down.

The most fun part of the film is when we have scenes with Coach (Colin Farrell). His group of boys is caught raising havoc in one of Mickey's underground farms, so he owes Mickey and Ray. The payback to Ray and Mickey are amusing and fun to watch.

Confused? One could be, but this convoluted story is kept on track by the narration scenes. This saves the film from being a total disaster and it also makes it a poorly constructed film.

Anyway, there are lots of side plots and stories in this movie, including Mickey's wife, Rosalind Pearson (Michelle Dockery). She's supposed to be the most magnificent woman in the world, but it is only in the eyes of the beholder. There is the newspaper owner who hired Fletcher. There is Lord George (Tom Wu), head dragon, heroin distributor who crosses Mickey.

The movie has lots of twists that are used for creating interest and complexity, and in some cases, it works, but mostly it doesn't.

McConaughey's role in this makes me wonder. At times he selects fantastic parts like in film Dallas Buyer's Club and other times, he chooses roles like this one. He does it well enough, but it's really a role of false, blustery, and cool-man behavior. Hunnam is outstanding as Ray, Mickey's right-hand man. Grant is oddly compelling as a bad guy. I've not seen him recently, and seeing him here was fun. Farrell is brilliant as the Coach of a group of guys and honest to his word. Actually, I liked his character and role the best of all. Dockery is okay as Mickey's wife and auto builder entrepreneur. Strong is mediocre as the wealthy and odd Englishman who wants to buy Mickey's empire. Golding is formidable as Dry Eye, a youngish Asian who wants to make his mark. Wu was perfect as the wry old heroin distributor. Ritchie wrote and directed this film, and as I've indicated, Guy has little to offer in the realm of filmmaking and his background in music videos is where his talent may lay.

Overall: Although entertaining at times, being so convoluted the required narration means the story and film needs additional work.

Bad Boys for Life
(2020)

First Hit: Funny at the right times, but confusing gun battles took away from the story.
First Hit: Funny at the right times, but confusing gun battles took away from the story.

Will Smith as Detective Mike Lowery and Martin Lawrence as Detective Marcus Burnett can be engagingly funny together. And in many scenes, they hit that sweet spot by bringing outright out-loud laughter from the audience.

The background of this story is that these two have worked together for twenty plus years and, during this time, created havoc in the Miami Police Department by being both hasty in their actions and unconventional in their investigative methods. The directors, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah put this right up front in the opening scenes when they have the detectives drive through Miami at recklessly high speeds in Lowery's 911 Porsche.

Burnett wants to retire but gets yanked away from fulfilling this dream when Lowery gets riddled with five bullets from Armando (Jacob Scipio), an assassin riding a motorcycle down one of Miami's boulevards. In another early scene, we see Armando breaking his mother Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo) out of prison.

Isabel is intent on revenging an old score which resulted in the death of her husband. She asks Armando to kill all that had to do with her former husband's death. One of the aspects of Isabel that the audience is made aware of early is that she sees herself as a witch of some sort.

Directing the detective's work over the years was Captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano). After Lowery's shooting, he brings on his newly formed AMMO (Advanced Miami Metro Operations) squad to solve the case of all the current assassinations by using data and more conventional crime resolution techniques. This team is led by Lowery's ex-girlfriend Rita (Paola Nunez).

Lowery won't be held back and goes out to find his assassin and finally convincing Burnett to come out of retirement to help him one last time.

The rest of the film is about the slight conflicts between the AMMO squad and Lowery and Burnett's tactics on finding and dealing with the assassins.

The AMMO team has some hilarious interactions with Lowery and Burnett, which helped set the stage. However, it was Marcu's comments to Mike that got the most laughs. One funny scene was when Mike names the color dye Mike uses to cover the gray in his goatee.

However, what didn't work was the convoluted shootouts, two specifically, one in a warehouse garage and the other in an old hotel that was confusing. Just too much noise and shooting that didn't make a whole lot of sense.

Smith was his typical smart-alecky competent self. As such, he was perfect for this role. Lawrence was terrific as the sidekick attempting to bring some sanity to his partner's life. Pantoliano was solid as a police captain. Nunez was good as Lowery's former girlfriend and leader of AMMO. Castillo was okay as the woman looking for revenge. Vanessa Hudgens, as Burnett's all-knowing supportive wife, was terrific. Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, and Joe Carnahan wrote the screenplay. Directors Arbi and Fallah did a good job of bringing both action and comedy to bear.

Overall: There was nothing memorable about his film or story, but it was a fun experience.

The Irishman
(2019)

First Hit: An in-depth, introspective, and a sliver of a story into the mob world's connection to Jimmy Hoffa.
First Hit: An in-depth, introspective, and a sliver of a story into the mob world's connection to Jimmy Hoffa.

This was a historical storytelling film of the life of "The Irishman" Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro). To make this happen, we begin and end this movie with Frank sitting in an old folks home telling the story of his life.

The young Frank begins with his being back from his WWII stint in Italy, and now a truck driver delivering meat. He finds that he can skim some of the carcasses off and sell them for extra side money. In doing so, he slowly begins to sell to mobsters who appreciate a good deal. A chance meeting, followed by a more formal introduction with rising mobster Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) begins a lifelong friendship. Russell gets Frank odd jobs including painting houses (which is a mob euphemism for murder) as needed by the mob.

Getting caught arriving at a store, that purchased the meat, with an empty truck, the trucking company wants to convict him for theft. What happened to the meat? Frank sold it to gangsters but acts as if he's no idea what happened to the beef in the truck. It is one of the few amusing scenes in the film.

Frank knows the value of keeping his mouth shut, and this trait along with his support of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters run by Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), Frank gets a new job being Hoffa's chief bodyguard.

The movie generously uses CGI to move these characters back and forth through at least 50 years of life. From young men in their 20s and 30s to old men in their 70s and 80s. For the most part, it worked well.

We follow these three gentlemen through their lives, including mob family wars for power.

We watch them fight with the government about expanding to Cuba and the Castro regime. We watch them struggle with John F. Kennedy's election and subsequent assassination. We see how Bobby Kennedy tried to bust up the unions and Hoffa in particular, because of how Jimmy loaned the mob millions of dollars, interest-free, in union pension funds. In fact, the film makes a point of indicating that union pension funds built Las Vegas by the mob.

There are softer moments in the film like how Frank's daughter Peggy (Anna Paquin as the older Peggy) visibly disliked Russell but liked Hoffa. The story also has a few tender moments of Frank and his second wife, Irene (Stephanie Kurtzuba).

The scenes are shot with an authentic and matter of fact feel to them, not splashy. One-shot that stuck with me was when Russell takes Frank to a small airport to get on a plane to meet Hoffa in Detroit; the camera looks out the tiny private plane window to see Bufalino sitting in the Lincoln. Russell will wait in the car until Sheeran returns after meeting Hoffa. There was something about this shot that brought the craft of even the small things matter to the forefront.

De Niro was excellent as the Irishman turned mob strong arm and Bufalino confident. The scenes with the priest towards the end were powerful as De Niro showed a lot of skill in his refusal to deeply go into making amends. Pesci was terrific as mobster Bufalino. The scene when he and Frank are just getting to know each other and speaking Italian with Russell asking him how he learned to speak Italian was very engaging. Pacino as Hoffa was convincing. I've no idea of who Hoffa was privately, but the way Pacino portrayed him here made it feel real. Paquin as Peggy was perfect. She knew deep inside who her father was and what he did, and her way of keeping her distance and her looks of disapproval were excellent. Harvey Keitel was sublime in his brief scenes as mobster kingpin, Angelo Bruno. Steven Zaillian wrote a strong and in-depth screenplay from the book "I Heard You Paint Houses." Martin Scorsese showed his strength in using actors he knows and trusts to bring another compelling Italian mob film story to the screen.

Overall: Although very informational, it was a long film.

Just Mercy
(2019)

First Hit: A compelling and moving story about overturning injustice.
First Hit: A compelling and moving story about overturning injustice.

This movie is based on the true-life story of Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), who, after finishing law school at Harvard, moved to the deep south to help death-row prisoners in Alabama.

Although he was offered prestigious positions in other law firms, his mind was made up while during an internship, he interviewed death-row prisoners. He was deeply touched by these prisoner's stories and, after reviewing their files, that many of these men were unjustly accused and incarcerated.

Upon graduating from Harvard and passing the Alabama Bar, he moved to and opened a federally funded group to represent prisoners on death row. Arriving at their new offices, he was informed that he and his office manager Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), wouldn't be able to rent the offices because of the type of work they were doing. Holing up in Eva and her husband's home, they begin their quest to represent wrongfully convicted death-row inmates. The three touched upon in this film were different types of cases.

One of the stories is about Herbert Richardson (Rob Morgan), who was convicted of killing someone by a bomb he planted on the front porch of a house. Yes, he made the bomb, but what wasn't taken into consideration was that Richardson had PTSD from his time in Vietnam and had struggled by being in and out of mental health facilities for over 30 years. His story is wonderfully mixed into the overall film by following his appeal process and subsequent death by electrocution. The latter being such a powerful scene, it had our entire Saturday afternoon audience audibly crying.

The main story is about Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) a man convicted of killing a young 18-year-old girl. The fact was that at the time of the woman's death, he was surrounded by his entire family preparing food for a local fish fry. The testimony that got him incarcerated was given by Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson), who was a convicted felon that made up the story to get off of death row. In other words, he made a deal to lie for the local police and DA so that he would have a more comfortable life in prison.

The storyline follows how Stevenson and Ansley, jump through enormous hoops put forth by the Alabama criminal justice system, to let the truth be known. The resistance was put there to keep the criminal justice system from having to say they were criminally wrong and did not hand out justice to everyone equal under the law.

The film does a great job of mining the stories of the key players and how they ended up where they are. It also points out the discriminatory nature of many people and areas that still exist in the South.

This is a moving film, and I know that anyone seeing it will be impacted by the excellent acting and story behind the characters. The scene where Richarson is put to death is so powerfully well done even though you never see the actual execution. You'd be hard-pressed to not be affected by this scene.

Jordan was terrific as Stevenson. He plays this character with kindness and driven compassion which is outwardly kept under wraps. Larson is lovely as a mother and woman who is driven to do the right thing regardless of the impact on her family. Foxx was sublime. I loved the way he slowly let his guard down with Stevenson as time passed. It's a powerful performance. Nelson, as Myers was terrific. His critical role in the story was only outshone by his ability to draw the audience into his persona and how he got to be the person he was. You cannot take your eyes off him when he's on the screen. Morgan was phenomenal. I loved his character and maybe because I am also a Vietnam Veteran. I've met numerous street people who are vets that got lost along the way. His story touched me deeply. Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham wrote an outstanding script and dug in where it needed to. Cretton got incredible performances from the entire cast and needs to be commended for bringing this subject to film.

Overall: A film worth seeing as the story it tells helps us learn who we are and what we need to change.

Dunkirk
(2017)

First Hit: Although many of the camera angles and shots were engaging, the flaws in the storyline kept me out of entirely falling into this movie.
First Hit: Although many of the camera angles and shots were engaging, the flaws in the storyline kept me out of entirely falling into this movie.

I do my best to ignore hoopla, reviews, and articles about films before seeing them. It causes and creates preconceived ideas that are rarely met along with providing filters that have to be ignored.

Such was the case with this movie. So much noise about how great this film is.

Granted the effect given by the one camera one-shot concept was good, however, it wasn't shot with one camera and it wasn't one long shot and therefore I found myself guessing what was included in the one-shot and moments when they edited to make it look like one shot one camera.

If I'm watching a movie and my mind is dancing with these questions, it just means I'm not fully ensconced in the story and presentation and that isn't good.

Besides the camera stuff, the other aspects that didn't work for me were: A scene when Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) he gets shot at from the German sniper soldier in a building after he crossed a destroyed bridge. Why did they simultaneously shoot each other and Schofield fall back downstairs, as if he were hit, and end up with no injuries? The German, as we expected, was hit and died. Then, how did Schofield not get hit as he was chased through the burning buildings being chased by multiple German soldiers shooting at him? How did the wounds he did received appear and disappear, yet the bandage on his right hand from a barbed wire wound early in the story consistently appear in later shots? How did Schofield and Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) not hear any of the trucks or men marching near the farmhouse where the plane crashed. One moment, the stillness and quiet of the farm is interrupted by a plane crash. Then Blake fights with the surviving German pilot, then within minutes, a whole battery of trucks and men are swarming on the same farm. Noise from the vehicles made in 1917 and the men of the advancing regiment, would have been heard long before the plane crash and certainly after it. However, here they are not, they just appear like ants scurrying around the farm.

When there are this many questions running through my mind as I watch the scenes unfold, It's hard for me to be a fully engaged fan of the film.

The movie's story about two men, Schofield and Blake, being ordered to locate and warn an English regiment that is pursuing the German Army that the Germans have set this pursuit up as a trap to destroy the following regiment. Specifically, Blake was given this assignment because General Erinmore (Colin Firth) has learned Blake's brother is a lieutenant in the pursuing regiment. To me, this was a questionable motivational strategy by the General. Blake was asked to select another soldier to be his companion and he chose Schofield because they were close friends. However, the overall goal and motivation to save some 1,600 men was not in question.

The difficulties that Schofield and Blake endured as they cross the previous battle lines were, for the most part, engaging. However, none of the scenes were pointedly unique when compared to scenes in other films, like Peter Jackson's "They Shall Not Grow Old," or Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan," or Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk." In fact, the section where they pass through the destroyed German Artillery appeared too staged, with each piece being perfectly placed.

MacKay was excellent as Blake's reluctant partner. As we know he would, he showed up with strength and compassion when needed. Chapman was perfect as Blake who was going to save his brother's regiment no matter what happened. His scene after being stabbed by the German pilot he saved, was excellent. Sam Mendes and Kristy Wilson-Cairns wrote this interesting screenplay. Mendes did a terrific job of giving the feel of a single camera single-tracked view of this story.

Overall: Thought that I've seen better films are telling this sort of story.

A Hidden Life
(2019)

First Hit: A long and beautifully shot study about how one man wouldn't compromise his beliefs.
First Hit: A long and beautifully shot study about how one man wouldn't compromise his beliefs.

Terrence Malick creates and makes statements in his films. Often, the films are long, always beautifully shot, and require the audience to think about the point he's making.

In this movie, the focus is on living and acting on your beliefs. Franz Jagerstatter (August Diehl) was profoundly religious and had a personal relationship with his idea of God, Christ, and what was right and wrong. He was faithful to the Catholic church in his tiny Austrian hillside village, called St. Radegund. As part of his commitment to the church performed duties at the church almost every day.

Married to Franziska, Fani (Valerie Pachner), they began their life together, farming and then having two children. They farmed their land by hand and were an integral part of their small community. During harvest season, the community worked together to bring in and store the harvested crops. The town felt like it was a long way from the war that Hitler was bringing to the world. However, when the war started turning against Hitler, the army drafted all eligible men to serve the Third Reich. This included Franz.

A requirement for serving the German Army was to sign a pledge of allegiance to Hitler and the German government. Franz couldn't do this. He could not live with himself if he signed something that was against what he believed, and after the army attempted to persuade him with physical and verbal abuse, they threw him in jail. The German officers even solicited the assistance of his local priest to convince him to sign the oath of loyalty. In essence, the priest was saying that God would overlook his signing the document to save his own life and the life of his family.

He couldn't and wouldn't sign the oath and therefore spent years in jail. But Franz wasn't the only one who paid the price, so did Fani. In scenes back in the village, Fani and the girls are depicted being shunned by almost everyone in the village because her husband Franz was giving their town a bad name in the eyes of ruling Germany.

The film spends time going back and forth between Franz in prison being harassed and beaten into signing a loyalty oath and the village where Fani and the girls were continuing to be harassed by the people in her town.

The immense pressure building up in Franz didn't break him down and his wife, despite the immense movement to ostracize her and the girls, continued to support him and his decision despite what she was going through.

This film shows the cruelty of people when someone stands up for their beliefs. Because the people, including the priest, are unwilling to stand for their true feelings, they make Franz and Fani the enemy.

The physical beauty of the area of the village was well captured by the cinematographer. The integration of archival footage of Adolf Hitler and the huge parades he commanded was well done.

Diehl was terrific as Franz. His ability to show his internal struggle in a contained, in prison, way was perfect. Pacher was sublime. Her looks of intensity and passion towards other characters , amazing. Michael Nyqvist's performance as the local Bishop that tried to persuade Franz to sign the document was excellent. Alexander Radszun's performance as the judge that sentenced Franz to death was very good. You could see that he understood and struggled but had to follow his own loyalty oath. Malick wrote a script that was too long. I think the film could have had a stronger impact if it was more crisp in its presentation.

Overall: Long and pretty, it needed to be tightened up to make its point even stronger.

Uncut Gems
(2019)

First Hit: A wild ride with a Jewish, gem selling, obsessive gambler.
First Hit: A wild ride with a Jewish, gem selling, obsessive gambler.

This film starts oddly because we move between the inside of a large black opal to the colon of gem and watch seller Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler). Eerily some of the camera images reflect the similarity between both, and I guess that was the point.

We follow Howard on the streets of New York, gregariously saying "hello" to many individuals he comes across as he makes his way to his store. The double door security that these small gem sellers use. I want to note that these doors become part of the story. Getting buzzed in by his beautiful assistant and girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox), he heads to his office in a very anxious, nervous way.

The one characteristic behavior Howard displays throughout the film is one of being chased, corralled, and almost being caught but finding a way to talk himself out of being beaten up or killed each time. This is the ride we are on with Howard throughout the film.

As a gambler that owes his brother-in-law Arno (Eric Bogosian) over $100K, and other people money from his sports gambling losses, we see him in sequences of pawning stuff, giving people watches as collateral, and making wild, complex sports bets.

Arriving at his desk in an early scene, he receives a Styrofoam box, which has him very excited. Opening the box, there are two fish, he squeezes each of them looking to feel something. We know this is an illicit shipment of something. He finally cuts one open to reveal the sizeable uncut opal we saw, and were inside of, in the opening sequence.

His plan is to auction the opal off for nearly a million dollars, and it will free him from the money he owes to bookies and to finalize the divorce his wife Dinah (Idina Menzel) while providing for his three kids, and make his girlfriend happy.

Enter Kevin Garnett, the basketball player. He's brought to Howard's store because of their mutual friend "The Weekend" (The Weekend). Howard shows him some of the stuff in the store and in a moment of pride, shows him the uncut opal. Kevin is mesmerized by the opal and asks to take it for a night. Reluctantly, Howard agrees if Kevin gives up his Boston Celtics championship ring as collateral. Thinking he can get away with it, Howard pawns Kevin's ring to make a quick bet hoping to capitalize a big win and pay everyone back, get the ring out of hock, auction the stone, make a bunch of money and live a happy fulfilled life with his girlfriend.

However, we know compulsive gamblers rarely finish first, and so the film follows this big setup until its end.

The scenes where Howard is having difficult conversations with his wife, bookies, or employees, are amazing and probably not easy to do. He seems to never hear what the other person is saying and continues the conversation as if the person whom he's speaking with understood and agreed with what he has said. This is rarely the case and so there are many scenes where people are merely talking over each other. Listening to these two different dialogues and attempting to follow both conversations during a shouting session was both amusing and challenging.

I thought the scenes were very well set up in that they seemed to always have an edge that everything was going to come off the rails any minute. There was a franticness in everything on the screen that kept the film moving along at a rapid clip despite its 135-minute running time.

Sandler was perfect for this role, and I could easily see why the Safdie brothers wanted him for the part. Like the film "Punch Drunk Love," Sandler can bring a desperate dark edge to his characters and make it totally believable. Here the monster is his addiction to the big win. Maybe an Oscar-worthy performance. Garnett was terrific as himself. That might sound funny, but often sports stars are awkward when being filmed, but Kevin was dynamite. The Weekend was perfect as the sly, trying to make a buck, go-between. Two scenes stood out; one in Howard's office when he discovers Howard has been selling, hawking, or giving away the watches that he's stored in Howards safe. The other scene that stood out was in the nightclub when Howard confronts him about the opal. Fox was excellent as Howard's lover. The scenes in the apartment and in the Vegas betting room were well done and it's the latter where she stood out. Menzel as Howard's wife was utterly sarcastic and disengaged from their relationship. The look on her face when she opened their Mercedes trunk with Howard inside was priceless. Bogosian was outstanding as Howard's brother-in-law and bank. Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, and Josh Safdie wrote an engaging script. But it was the directing and acting of Sandler and the rest of the team that made this film work.

Overall: This film left me with mixed feelings, but I loved the story and the wild ride.

Little Women
(2019)

First Hit: I liked the theme of women being strong and independent and disliked the jarring time shifts.
First Hit: I liked the theme of women being strong and independent and disliked the jarring time shifts.

I've made no bones about Saoirse Ronan is one of the very best actors in her generation and in film today. Here as Jo March, the oldest of the four sisters, she is the focus of this story and therefore, we this story through her eyes.

She has three sisters Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen). Each of the sisters has talent. Meg is an actress and in early scenes, she and her sisters are shown making a play together and Meg has the lead role. Amy is a painter and she aspires to be the best and ultimate painter alive. Beth is the youngest, is shy and more unassuming, but plays piano like she was born with one in her soul.

The girls are being raised by their mother, Marmee (Laura Dern). She's alone as her husband, and the girl's dad is away fighting the civil war. They live in a large home but because the father is away and cannot provide for them, money is tight which is part of the drive for some of the girls, especially Jo, to provide for themselves as they get older. They don't want to be dependent on men.

As a strong independent young woman, Jo wants to make her living and livelihood from the stories she writes. She thinks the way women are treated and the limits put on women to be independent is absurd. There are numerous scenes where this plays out. One such scene is when she's attempting to sell a story and the publisher/editor tells her the girl in the story has to marry and be happy in the end; that's the only way people will accept the story. This infuriates Jo.

Jo is also stubborn, as shown in a couple of brief scenes. One such scene is when she was in New York to make her living as a writer, she meets a handsome writing professor and after Jo asks him to honestly critic her work. He thoughtfully does this, and the criticism stings, so she calls him inept and storms out of the room, blaming him for lack of thoughtfulness.

There are many acts where her feminism and stubbornness play out, and they are wonderfully done.

Meg is different in that she wants to marry. She wants to create a household with children. This is a source of disappointment for Jo; however, it also is a way for Jo to see and accept that people are different from her.

Amy is like Jo in many ways in that she wants to be the best and known for being the best. However, in a scene of self-actualization, she realizes that her perfectionist painting technique is outstanding, but she doesn't create anything unique and probably will never be the painter she envisioned herself to be. I really liked this about Amy because the actualization was subtle yet very clear and it came through in her expression.

Beth was quiet and meekest of the sisters; however, her piano playing was extraordinary. Her weakness was that she didn't like playing in front of anyone. She was also the weakest of the sisters physically and we watch her demise through catching scarlet fever.

All this to say, I loved each of the sister's stories. I thought each of them was superbly acted as well. What hurt this film was the sometimes-jarring way we segued into other time frames. Watching a particular segment of a sister's story and then boom, we find ourselves with that person in some different storyline. Sometimes it made sense and other times it was too obscure at the time to be an addition to the story or the particular sister. With the type of time jumps this film presents it is difficult to tell if they were future or past events because the actors never looked older or younger in the scenes. I just don't think the audience needs to be trying to figure out when the previous scene happened in the overall storyline.

One particular scene when Jo cut her hair for money for the family, we see her in subsequent stages with long or short hair but the storyline at one point meant that she should have had short hair but it was long and bunched up in the back.

It also appeared that men were only used as place holders and role players to propel the sister's stories, and this isn't a bad thing and it came across as a bit too obvious.

Ronan was powerful as Jo. The fault I found with the film was the time jumps that diminished the storyline and had nothing to do with her performance. Watson was wonderfully elegant yet showed a side of fun and enthusiasm as well. The scene where her part of her hair gets burnt off and then to the vulnerable elegance of her coming down the stairs in a coming-out event showed the breadth of her abilities in this role. Pugh was the surprising actor for me. She was sublime in this role, and when she was on the screen, her look alone commanded you watch her. The moment that Amy realizes she won't be a famous painter was genuinely inspirational. Scanlen was beautiful as the meekest of the sisters although she harbored some of the biggest talents in the family. Dern was terrific as the mother who's compassion for others rang throughout the movie. I loved her scene with Jo when discussing patience and anger. Timothee Chalamet as Theodore 'Laurie' Laurence was sharp. Being the rich boy neighbor, who had fallen in love with Jo because of her strength and independence, was sufficiently arrogant, boisterous, and kind. Chris Cooper as Laurie's father Mr. Laurence, was excellent. His thoughtful kindness as the rich neighbor was well placed throughout the film. Meryl Streep was outstanding by being arrogant and funny as the very wealthy Aunt to the sisters. Her well placed and pointed jabs at women having careers were perfect. Greta Gerwig wrote and directed this film. I didn't like her choice to make time jumps without giving the audience clues about the past and future. The actors never really looked different in these time sequences and that was bothersome. Otherwise, she got excellent performances from the actors and the sets and scenes were beautifully filmed.

Overall: A terrific film interrupted by time jumps that caused confusion.

Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker
(2019)

First Hit: In the end, it was satisfying and that's all that mattered.
First Hit: In the end, it was satisfying and that's all that mattered.

I was one of those guys standing in line the first day that the original "Star Wars" film, later subtitled "Episode IV - A New Hope," was released (1977). The moment the words "Star Wars" came on the screen, followed by the storyline scrolling up and fading into deep space, and lastly, the cruiser coming in overhead, I was hooked.

I liked some of the subsequent films. The prequels were a mixed bag, as were the sequels. Yesterday the final movie, number nine, was viewed, and I was happy I saw the ending to the film that started it all some forty-two years ago.

This film brought in many of the old characters in different scenes signaling this saga of stories' conclusion. Most of these scenes worked well, but some did not.

The highlights included how they intertwined Leia's (Carrie Fisher) stored archival footage quite effectively into this story. Because of Fisher's passing, she had a more significant part than I would have imagined. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), was terrific and became the Jedi teacher, just like his teacher Obi-Wan, was to him. Luke gave Rey (Daisy Ridley) her final lessons to become a true Jedi Knight and with that lesson, the sword (OK, lightsaber) was passed to her.

Her rival and representing the dark side, as Darth Vader once did to Luke, was a continuation of the previous film and well played by Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. The story also included small scenes with Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), who once owned the Millennium Falcon before he lost it in a poker match to Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) and his sidekick Chewbacca.

However, it was Harrison Ford's addition that didn't work as well. His talk with Kylo seemed odd because of his casual GQ casual attire look didn't seem to fit the Hans of the past. Despite this, I appreciated the closure these additions provided.

The goal of this story was the defeat of the dark side still headed up by Emperor Palpatine. Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) who was secretly managing the demise of the Resistance with the rest of the Siths from their planet Exegol. One of the twists isn't their always twists in a Star Wars film, was that Rey was Palpatine's granddaughter. Palpatine was hoping to turn Rey to the dark side and together with Kylo, they would rule the universe and everything in it.

Heading up the Resistance's battle against the dark side was Rey, Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who had inherited the Millennium Falcon and Chewbacca after Hans death in the previous story. Together they pulled all the outliers of the resistance to do one final battle against the dark side.

The scenes were well done, and the photography and special effects were A-1. The first 2/3rds of the film was a mishmash of battles and strategy sessions attempting to set up the final 1/3rd. The last section built up in a predictable yet effective way.

We know who's going to win this battle of light and dark, but there was enough there to make one wonder along the way. It's enough to keep you in your seat when the full-screen cinematography throws up images that touch your joy, curiosity, and memories of days gone by.

Ridley is strong in this role. I never warmed up to her in the previous film, but as this film moved along, I started to accept her as the Jedi Knight savior and leader of the Resistance. Driver was excellent as Kylo. He had immediately picked up where Vader left off and even with his helmet off, Kylo's face scar says it all. Isaac isn't Ford. And to create a new captain of the Falcon is a significant role to jump into. Ford had his way, and eventually, I bought into Isaac's version of the Millennium Falcon's captain. Boyega's part was good but his overall role seemed to be minor in the scope of things. Williams was okay as Lando, and there was one scene that his charm was at the level it was when we were first introduced to him. Ford's role seemed just a bit out of place and almost like an add-on. Hamill's character was well done and I liked the inclusion. Chris Terrio and J.J. Abrams wrote a satisfying finale to this nine-film saga. J.J. Abrams also directed this effort and was able to put a final period at the end of this well-intentioned set of stories.

Overall: I'm more glad than sad that this series of stories is over because at least it ended strong.

Bombshell
(2019)

First Hit: I thoroughly enjoyed the acting and how this story shines a light on a behavior that was kept under wraps for far too long.
First Hit: I thoroughly enjoyed the acting and how this story shines a light on a behavior that was kept under wraps for far too long.

This is a story about the pain, degradation, and humiliation caused by the sexual abuse of women by the President of FOX News, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow).

Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) was the woman who sat between two men in the morning "Fox and Friends" television program. She put up with the snide and overly complimentary comments by her co-hosts and Ailes himself. As an integral part of the FOX News team, Carlson wanted to be seen as a peer and not a sexual object to be ridiculed. Her desire was to have her own show where she could call the shots. Over the years, she'd had many encounters with Ailes, many of them sexually charged and suggestive, but as a good reporter, she documented their meetings.

As she got older, Ailes wanted fresher and younger faces on the morning program, so he gave her a much-desired show of her own. However, it was placed it in the small audience afternoon time slot. However, that did not shy her away from doing some controversial stories, like older women without makeup show. This show, in particular, struck Ailes the wrong way, and we see him railing at Carlson and ended up not renewing her contract.

Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) was an up and comer in the news organization. And we slowly begin to learn, she also had sexually charged encounters with Ailes. However, Ailes did support her challenging Donald Trump on the campaign trail and at the debate. She hated becoming the story. The story shows how becoming the story opened her up to changing how she needed to work.

Then there is the story about the young woman, a conservative FOX employee, who wanted to be on air. Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) was a charger and aggressively sought out a way to speak to the man in charge, Ailes. The film shows their one on one meetings and Ailes propositioning her about how she could get to the top. The scene when Ailes asks her to stand, twirl, and hike up her skirt so he could see her legs were incredibly humiliating.

The movie cuts quickly from scene to scene and assaults you just as the news stories on television do from time to time. Scenes do not languish in this movie but are weaved together to create an account about how one woman Carlson decided to stand up to Ailes by suing him personally in hopes that others would join her.

Kidman was terrific as Carlson. Her internal strength to bring on a lawsuit was well presented. Theron was Megyn Kelly. The use of archival footage of Kelly and then segueing into scenes with Theron was seamless. It was a dominant performance. Robbie, as Pospisil, was sublime. I loved how she was able to show wide-eyed wonder, wanting to please, and desire to be noticed by senior management, then turn on a dime and show complete humiliation. Robbie's ability to explain all this in one scene and still give the audience a cohesive character was flawless. Lithgow was perfect as the angry slimeball Ailes. His displays of anger and indignancy were well-founded in his being caught being a predator. Allison Janney as Susan Estrich, Ailes's lawyer, was excellent. Kate McKinnon as Jess Carr, a co-worker of Pospisil on "The O'Reilly Factor," was perfect. She hid that she was a gay liberal working for Fox because it was the only job she could get. Charles Randolph wrote a pointed and robust script. Jay Roach did an excellent job of portraying the slow shifting tide at Fox News.

Overall: The event documented in this story helped to give wings to the "me too" movement.

The Aeronauts
(2019)

First Hit: Although the ground scenes lack any conviction or interest, the up in the air scenes are amazingly shot and provide lots of tension.
First Hit: Although the ground scenes lack any conviction or interest, the up in the air scenes are amazingly shot and provide lots of tension.

Two things that surprised me while watching this film. One; how wonderful it was that Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) was the amazingly brave and daring character in this story. Two, the difference between the mediocre ground-based scenes and fantastic air-based scenes was almost too significant to make the whole film work.

In short, James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) was a scientist and part of The Royal Society, where the big thinkers of the day held court where they expound on grand ideas, philosophy and scientific postulates. Glaisher thought that he and others should be able to predict the weather if they had more information about the atmosphere and how it works. The society laughed at him.

To prove his point, he wanted to go up in a lighter than air balloon to take measurements. The person he asks is Wren, who is still mourning the loss of her husband, Pierre, who was also an aeronaut balloon pilot and took his life to save his wife's during an ill-fated flight.

The film uses flashbacks throughout to show how Wren and Glaisher meet, and how they ended up in the first scene where Glaisher is impatiently waiting for Wren to show up to their launch site. Wren, on her way in a coach, is both scared and brave in her path to confront the feelings she'll have been in a balloon for the first time since her husband's death.

When she finally arrives at the launch site, she's quite the showman and gives the broad audience, who is here to witness this event, lots of ways to enjoy the beginning of this balloon launch. These scenes include a small dog. It is an enjoyable part of the opening scenes.

However, it is after they take off that the real drama comes into play. Enough to say, it is not only the views they get while rising to a then-record of 38,000 feet (without oxygen) but it is what happens to the balloon and how Wren powerfully saves their lives by doing something, I don't think I would ever consider, even if my life depended on it.

These scenes are beyond tense, well shot, and exciting and it makes this film worth watching.

Lastly, one thing I wondered about through the entire film was what were they using for the lighter than air gases. Because this wasn't hot air, they were using as there was no flame device to heat the air inside the balloon.

Jones is exceptional in this role. Her portrayal of the Amelia Wren as an Aeronaut and woman was first-rate. She also did an excellent job of showing her sadness and love towards her former husband while conquering this fear by piloting the balloon. Redmayne was perfect as Glaisher, but for some reason, he was so overshadowed by Jones that he got lost in the film. When he gives his talk at the Royal Society after his excursion with Wren, I thought that his pride in proving something felt egoic and small. It did show the smallness of humans whereas the big picture was carried by Wren. Hamish Patel was terrific as Glaisher's friend and supporter. Tom Harper and Jack Thorne wrote a good screenplay, but it really came to life while in the air and here is where Harper's direction and filming made this worth watching.

Overall: Having been up in a hot air balloon, I can only imagine what they were going through as they passed through the higher reaches of the atmosphere where a man can survive without oxygen.

The Two Popes
(2019)

First Hit: Very engaging film about the Catholic Church's 2012 shift towards being more liberal.
First Hit: Very engaging film about the Catholic Church's 2012 shift towards being more liberal.

I had basic knowledge about how the Catholic Church choose a pope and that the Pope is chosen for life. But that was it. This film opens this door a little more, and it was interesting.

In 2012 Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) gave up his papacy to Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce). This movie tells this exciting and unusual story of Pope Benedict's ascension after Pope John Paul II passed away and his subsequent resignation.

The film points out that Benedict really wanted to be Pope, and his chief rival, Cardinal Bergoglio didn't want to be Pope. From a philosophical point of view, they were diametrically opposed to the direction of the church. Watching the interaction of all the Cardinals before and during the selection of the new Pope was impressive.

When Benedict became Pope, his plan was to move the church back towards its more traditional values. However, these values were in opposition to increasingly more liberal ways Catholics around the world who were embracing like gay marriage and women having a more active role in the church.

Benedict didn't understand or support these things. He wanted the church to go back to Latin services and for the church to be opaque in its operations. He also likes the old fashion adornments of being the Pope, while struggling with the sexual assault suits being brought against the church, and his right-hand man was caught leading the church in financial improprieties.

Bergoglio decided he wanted to retire because he felt the church wasn't heading in the right direction. He wanted to quit being a Cardinal and go back to being a simple priest so that he could be closer to his followers in Argentina. Flying to Rome to present his resignation letter to Pope Benedict, his letter is rejected; actually, more like his letter kept getting ignored.

The two spend time together talking about their differences, and eventually, these discussions bring them to a point to share their deepest secrets and failings as priests. These stories are deeply touching and when Benedict asks Bergoglio to hear his confession, the beauty of how these two different men find their genuinely humble priestly roots were remarkable.

The filmmakers make great use of the Vatican itself as scenes there are elegantly shot. There are some amusing moments when Bergoglio tries to get the Pope to sign his letter of resignation, but the Pope just ignores each request.

When Benedict shares with Bergoglio his plans to retire and hope that the Cardinals select Bergoglio to move the church in a more positive direction, Bergoglio's plaintiff pleas to Benedict to stay in power are so real and sweet.

This film does a great job of providing an honest glimpse of how the Pope selection process works and how serious the Cardinals take this responsibility.

Pryce was sweetly sublime in this role as Cardinal Bergoglio and Pope Francis. The sweetness and humbleness of the real Pope Francis' beliefs were wonderfully shown. Hopkins was excellent as Pope Benedict. His firmly held beliefs of how the church should work, versus what was actually happening in the church was perfectly presented. Anthony McCarten wrote a fantastic screenplay that felt real and honest to these two people. Fernando Meirelles got excellent performances from these two great actors and was able to make the Catholic Church both interesting and attempting to fix the Vatican ship.

Overall: This story brought the Catholic Church to life for me.

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