Reviews written by registered user
gradyharp

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Arrival (2016/II)
0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
'If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?', 18 February 2017
10/10

ARRIVAL is a refreshing science fiction story that allows the audience to approach the concept of alien visits as something of value rather than the beginning of the end. No comic book antics in this sensitive film based on Ted Chiang's story 'Story of Your Life' and adapted with great skill by screenplay author Eric Heisserer. This is a film that asks us to ask questions about our place in the universe and in the cycle of life using the visitation of extraterrestrials as the stimulus. Denis Villeneuve directs with consummate skill.

The dialogue of the film has many rare insights – words that come form the characters such as 'Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict' and 'But now I'm not so sure I believe in beginnings and endings. There are days that define your story beyond your life. Like the day they arrived.'

The story line as action is simple – a factor that enhances the importance of the message of the film. Twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world. Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors with the assistance of theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). They join the Army team led by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) in Montana – one of the twelve areas where the craft have landed. Banks job is to try to learn the aliens' language and enable communication with them. Through regular meetings with two of the aliens she starts to compile a record of the aliens' "language" - a series of drawn symbols. The important question is - are they friend or foe? Other nations with alien landings are starting to view them as a threat, making it a race against time as war with the aliens could erupt at any moment.

With extraordinary cinematography by Bradford Young and a pitch perfect atmospheric musical score by Jóhann Jóhannsson (with a little help from Antonín Dvořák!) and first class acting by both Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, this is a film that should be marked as a 'must see' experience – for many many reasons – especially at this point in our earthbound history.

Sully (2016)
'It's not a crash, it was a forced water landing.', 14 February 2017
8/10

Topical docudramas don't always work; this one does. This once in a lifetime incident was reported in the book Brace for Impact: The Chesley B. Sullenberger Story (2010) by Chelsey Sully Sullenberger, well adapted for the screen by Todd Komarnicki, and adroitly directed by Clint Eastwood.

The manner of telling the story on film is at times a bit disconcerting because of the manner in which the screenplay jolts between after the event, dreams by Sully, and the even and the final 'trial'. But in the end it works – largely in part due to the reliable Tom Hanks as assisted by Aaron Eckhart.

Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), with his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), made aviation history on January 15th, 2009 when he successfully landed an Airbus A320 flight 1549 on the Hudson River instead of the intended LaGuardia Airport: a flock of birds flew into the engines, disabling and breaking them. 155 people walked off the plane that day. However, even as Sully was being heralded as a hero by the survivors and the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career. Further tension is provided by Sully's frightened telephone calls with his wife Lorraine (Laura Linney). A fine cast of actors hold the hearings in which Sully defends is actions and proves his heroism.

This is a solid film, ell photographed and acted and directed and brings to the public eye the action of a living hero. It is inspirational – especially today.

'Maybe one of these bank robbers is gonna want a gunfight and I can dodge my retirement in a blaze of glory.', 13 February 2017
10/10

Taylor Sheridan takes us back to the concept of the Wild West but in his fine script HELL OR HIGH WATER he keeps the time and the locale contemporary – present day in west Texas. And instead of ornery outlaws he places his story in the hands of a divorced father and his ex-con older brother who resort to robbing little banks in order to save their family's ranch in West Texas. David Mackenzie directs with a fine-tuned sense of balance between humor, sensitivity, pain, and loss and manages to pull together a splendid cast of characters that gives a very fine ensemble performance.

Following a series of armed robberies at a number of branches of Texas Midland Bank where very little money was taken, the idea behind the robberies is rather sensitive - the motive of unemployed oil and gas worker Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his ex-con older brother Tanner (Ben Foster) just released from prison is to raise enough money to pay off the reverse mortgage that will forfeit their recently deceased mother's ranch if not paid off. Oil was discovered on the ranch and in order to secure the future of his sons and ex wife (Marin Ireland), Toby needs $43,000. After two of the robberies, caustic old Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his American Indian deputy partner (Gil Birmingham) pick up the trail and just miss foiling the next, and last robbery. To offer more would be spoilers, though the manner in which the story is brought to closure identifies the tenderness that exists on the part of both the robbers and the law.

Both Chris Pine and Ben Foster offer excellent portrayals of two young men attempting to cope with life as it has been dealt to them. Jeff Bridges is in fine fettle as the old retiring age lawman who rattles off racial epithets/slurs to his good-natured Indian/Mexican partner in dialogue that is immensely memorable. Every minor role becomes major in the quality of delivery of a cast of surprisingly fine actors. Yes, it is a shoot 'em up contemporary Western, but it also is an extraordinarily well- written, directed and acted significant film with a fine after-burn.

Loving (2016)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
'I know we have some enemies. But we have some friends, too.', 12 February 2017
9/10

'I know we have some enemies. But we have some friends, too.'

Jeff Nichols is both a writer and director whose films Mud, Take Shelter, and now Loving make tough statements or recall traumas that are of lasting importance - none more so than Loving which very quietly recalls the true story of the couple who lead the way toward equal rights in both interracial marriage and miscegenation.

Very briefly (because everyone knows the story), in 1958 in the state of Virginia where interracial marriage was a felony Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), an interracial couple, drive to Washington, DC to be married, and then challenge their anti-miscegenation arrest for their marriage in Virginia which led to a legal battle that would end at the US Supreme Court.

That Edgerton and Negga offer fine performances is a given, but the film is enhanced by the bit roles by Sharon Blackwood, Christopher Mann, Marton Csokas, Nick Kroll, Michael Shannon and others that round out the cast of the film.

While there is no question that this is an important docudrama, especially at this moment when racial relations are front-page news and the event of the story is one of the hallmarks of the civil rights movement, the film itself is very slow moving. The dialogue is flat for the most part, or subdued, to the point where the tenor of the 50's and 60's is disregarded. There are few moments when the clashes that were heard round the world are evident – the strength of the Lovings is quiet and without evidence of the cruelty they suffered.

Perhaps that is the intention of Jeff Nichols – to not sensationalize the story but to simply tell it in quiet but determined terms. But for many the contrast of the struggle to live in the world in those times is missing.

Loving (2016)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'I know we have some enemies. But we have some friends, too.', 12 February 2017
9/10

'I know we have some enemies. But we have some friends, too.'

Jeff Nichols is both a writer and director whose films Mud, Take Shelter, and now Loving make tough statements or recall traumas that are of lasting importance - none more so than Loving which very quietly recalls the true story of the couple who lead the way toward equal rights in both interracial marriage and miscegenation.

Very briefly (because everyone knows the story), in 1958 in the state of Virginia where interracial marriage was a felony Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), an interracial couple, drive to Washington, DC to be married, and then challenge their anti-miscegenation arrest for their marriage in Virginia which led to a legal battle that would end at the US Supreme Court.

That Edgerton and Negga offer fine performances is a given, but the film is enhanced by the bit roles by Sharon Blackwood, Christopher Mann, Marton Csokas, Nick Kroll, Michael Shannon and others that round out the cast of the film.

While there is no question that this is an important docudrama, especially at this moment when racial relations are front-page news and the event of the story is one of the hallmarks of the civil rights movement, the film itself is very slow moving. The dialogue is flat for the most part, or subdued, to the point where the tenor of the 50's and 60's is disregarded. There are few moments when the clashes that were heard round the world are evident – the strength of the Lovings is quiet and without evidence of the cruelty they suffered.

Perhaps that is the intention of Jeff Nichols – to not sensationalize the story but to simply tell it in quiet but determined terms. But for many the contrast of the struggle to live in the world in those times is missing.

'Strong guys don't hurt you, the weak guys do that.', 8 February 2017
7/10

British author Lee Child returns with another installment in his popular JACK REACHER SERIES and with a screenplay adaptation by Marshall Herskovitz, Richard Wenk and director Edward Zwick they have made another successful espionage thriller for Tom Cruise.

The plot is complex and has been well outlined as follows: 'After accomplishing the assignment of dismantling a human trafficking organization, the former military and drifter Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) goes to Washington to invite his liaison Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) to have dinner with him. However, he meets her substitute Colonel Sam Morgan (Holt McCallany) who explains that Major Turner has been arrested and accused of espionage. Jack seeks out her veteran lawyer Colonel Bob Moorcroft (Robert Catrini) who explains that Major Turner has also been accused of the murders of two soldiers in Afghanistan. Further, he also tells that Jack is being sued, accused by a woman of being the father of her fifteen year-old daughter Samantha (Danika Yarosh). When Moorcroft is murdered, Jack is accused of being the killer and sent to a prison. He sees that Turner and he have been framed and also that Turner will be killed by two assassins. However he rescues her and they flee; soon they realize that there is a conspiracy involving military people from the army and a government contractor that is a powerful arm dealer. Jack also learns that Samantha is in danger and Turner and he rescue her. They decide to protect her since a skilled assassin (Patrick Heusinger) is hunting them down while they try to find the motive of the conspiracy. Who can be trusted?'

It is all action, incredible feats of daring, massive violence, and the usual load of explosions, fires and car chases. But that is what these Jack Reacher films are all about. Cruise pulls it off and the supporting cast, while basically unknowns, provide fine backup. It is what it is. And there is a cliffhanger of sorts that will likely mean more Jack Reacher movies are in the works.

La La Land (2016/I)
2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
'This is the dream! It's conflict and it's compromise, and it's very, very exciting!', 4 February 2017
8/10

Rhode Island born Damien Chazelle graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies. He has captured the attention of audiences throughout the country with is own story which he also directed – LA LA LAND – and likely will become a Hollywood staple. Perhaps the chaotic mess in which we find ourselves, daily sinking into a dark hole created by our change in political face, is the reason this little slight escape piece is finding such favor. Or maybe we just want to remember the happy ever after ending to dreams that were abundant in early musical films that makes this film the talk of the Oscars and making so much money.

The film is about dreams - their illusions, consequences and rewards. Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz musician, scrapes by playing cocktail party gigs in dingy bars, but as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart.

Apart from Stone and Gosling dancing and singing their way through the endless colorscapes of Los Angeles and Hollywood, there are few other actors involved – JK Simmons, Damon Gupton, John Legend, Tom Everett Scott, and others – to make the plot have any broad strokes. But it is what it is – and it is being applauded as the probable best picture of the year. Go figure….

"'Tis strange -- but true; for truth is always strange; Stranger than fiction."– Lord Byron, 31 January 2017
8/10

Courtroom dramas remain a favorite with film and stage audiences and THE WHOLE TRUTH shares evidence of that fact. The title is extracted from the oath in court – 'Do you swear to tell the truth, The Whole Truth, and nothing but the truth? So help you God – and therein lies the pinpoint of the story. Written by Nicholas Kazan and Directed by Courtney Hunt the film traverses a tale that faces juries and judges – an apparently open and shut case of murder that plays out until the last few minutes when the surprise is deftly unveiled and the audience is left shocked.

Defense attorney Richard Ramsay (Keanu Reeves) takes on a personal case when he swears to his widowed friend, Loretta Lassiter (Renée Zellweger) that he will keep her son Mike (Gabriel Basso) out of prison. Charged with murdering his father Boone Lassiter (Jim Belushi), Mike initially confesses to the brutal stabbing crime. But as the trial proceeds, chilling evidence about the kind of man that Boone Lassiter really was comes to light. While Ramsay uses the evidence to get his client acquitted, his new colleague Janelle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) tries to dig deeper - and begins to realize that the whole truth is something she alone can uncover.

The cast is uniformly solid with Keanu Reeves offering one of his stronger characterizations. There are also fine supporting roles by Ritchie Montgomery as the judge, Jim Klock as the prosecuting attorney, among others. This is a solid film, worth seeing and thinking about.

'You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.', 29 January 2017
9/10

M.L. Stedman's novel THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS has been beautifully transcribed to the screen by writer/director Derek Cianfrance ('The Place Beyond the Pines', 'Blue Valentine' etc). Thought he story takes place in Australia, the elected filming location was New Zealand, sharing some of the most beautiful vistas we've seen in a long time. The story's tagline – 'Love demands everything' - is very well chosen.

The movie opens in 1918 with Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) traveling by boat to a remote village off the coast of Western Australia. He has accepted the temporary position of lighthouse keeper on the island of Janus Rock. Janus Rock is a small island linked to the mainland, and only visited by boat four times a year by the shopkeeper, Harry, who brings grocery orders, supplies and mail. Because of Janus Rock's remote location and isolation, it was a difficult post to fill before Tom took it over. The permanent lighthouse keeper will return to his job in six months. Tom visits the mainland, meets Isabel (Alicia Vikander), and after a whirlwind romance they marry. Tom and radiant, spirited Isabel live together in married bliss on Janus but their windswept world is turned upside down when after two miscarriages Isabel learns that she's unable to bear a child. One day, a drifting lifeboat washes ashore with a deceased man and crying baby in it. The dilemma the couple now face will echo far beyond the island, engulfing and irrevocably impacting their world -- and that of a stranger Hannah Roennfeldt (Rachel Weisz) -- in a passionate story about love, hope, and a fateful choice. The manner in which the decision is made as to who should keep the now four-year-old Lucy/Grace (Florence Clery) involves concepts of birth mother versus adopted mother, guilt in deciding how love plays in the role of justice, and any number of other issues so beautifully managed by the story and the script and the actors.

The well-assembled supporting cast includes Thomas Unger as the critical decisive character of Bluey, Jane Menelaus and Garry McDonald as the parents of Hannah (whose frightened German husband Frank (Leon Ford) attempted to escape with their baby when prejudice against Germans broke out in their town), and others. Alexandre Desplat provides the moody musical score and the cinematography is the work of Adam Arkapaw. The film is majestically beautiful to see and carries messages that ask the viewer to think, to consider, to understand. A bit long at 133 minutes but the cast handles the story beautifully.

Inferno (2016/I)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'The greatest sins in human history were committed in the name of love.', 28 January 2017
8/10

Dan Brown has made a fortune on his thrillers with secrets hidden in art books and this latest screen adaptation continues the flavor of his concept that started with The Da Vinci Code, then Angels and Demons, and now Inferno. He has a formula that works cinematically (with a screenplay by David Koepp) and if this current adaptation isn't quite p to par the blame is shifted to director Ron Howard and the excessive use of CGI effects that move the drama away from the close tie to art and literature of ancient Italy. Still it is Dan Brown, and he knows how to spin a tale.

Set very solidly in contemporary times we first meet the character Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) and his plan to control the overpopulation of the earth with a diabolical release of a new virus that infect the masses and reduce the population to 50 % of its present status. Enter the famous symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) who wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia and finds himself the target of a manhunt. Langdon teams up with Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), an ER doctor he hopes will help him recover his memories. Together, they race across Europe and against the clock to stop a madman from unleashing a global virus that would wipe out half of the world's population. The World Health Organization is involved as are spies and the usual bad guys – with several prominent roles played by Sidse Babett Knudsen (Robert's ex-lover), Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Ana Ularu, Ida Darvish, among others.

The beauty of the film is the magnificence of Florence, Italy, Istanbul, Turkey, Budapest, Hungary, and Venice, Italy and of course the artwork that plays so significant a part in the mystery of the hunt for the container of 'The Virus.' The story has been doctored unnecessarily, weakening it is many ways from the book, but the thrust is there – and Tom Hanks once again pulls it off well. INFERNO may not be perfect but it is a fine evening's entertainment – with some significant commentary about power and population control and the environment tossed in for controversy.


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