It’s Tuesday which can only mean one thing and that is that it is time for Based on a Truesday Story. Based on a Truesday Story is a segment I did on my other blog where we watch films that are based on a true story and for today we are doing American Gangster. Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) is an African American drug lord from Harlem, New York who decides that the best way to take over the competition is to fly directly to the source in Vietnam. He quickly becomes the drug kingpin of New York, but that attracts the wrong kind of attention. Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is an honest cop who gets put on the case to track down Frank Lucas and shut him down completely and anyone else corrupt as well. The film also stars Chiwetelu Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) as Huey Lucas, Josh Brolin (The Goonies) as Trupo, Lymari Nadal (The Blackout) as Eva, Ted Levine (The Silence Of The Lambs) as Lou Toback, Roger Guenveur Smith (He Got Game) as Nate, John Hawkes (Lincoln) as Freddie, RZA (The Man With The Iron Fists) as Moses Jones, Carla Gugino (Watchmen) as Laurie, Idris Elba (Thor) as Tango, Common (Selma) as Turner Lucas, TI (Ant-Man) as Stevie Lucas, Armand Assante (Judge Dredd) as Dominic Cattano, and the film was directed by Ridley Scott (Alien).
What happens when you put Denzel Washington in a leading role of a film? Well, I hope that you are preparing yourself for one hell of a performance because that is exactly what you are getting with this film. The thing I loved about this film is that you sort of get two stories in one where you have one guy who wants to make his teacher and his family proud by being at the top of his game while you have another who feels that honesty is the best policy and it will lead him over the dirty cops. I have to be honest in saying that if I found a million dollars as a cop, I may skim a few off the top of it. It’s kind of the story of the two roads with the one less traveled and you can guess who took which road in this film. There are so many actors that appeared in this film that I couldn’t fit above that deserved honorable mention like Cuba Gooding Jr., Ruby Dee, Jon Polito, John Ortiz, and many more who do a terrific job in the film. Now we all know that Hollywood takes some civil liberties with their films, but this one seems to have a lot according to an article on historyvshollywood.com. One story is that Frank says in the film that he drove for Bumpy for 15 years. Reports indictate that Bumpy was released from prison in 1963 and he died in 1968 leaving only a five year window. Check out more of the facts vs fiction in that article that I provided. The film is excellent with a very good story, amazing cinematography, and it’s the kind of gangster movies we love here in the states. So, what more could you possibly ask for? I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade.
Sometimes there are films that come out that either get a bad review or there just not in the theaters that long that I overlook them. That was definitely the case with today’s film Hail, Caesar! which was gone before I got around to seeing it. The film stars Josh Brolin (The Goonies) as Hollywood Fixer Eddie Mannix who works for Capitol Studios. Eddie has a lot on his plate with having to take a western star (Alden Ehrenreich) and shuffle him to a completely different genre, trying to hide a pregnancy out of wedlock from the public eye, and even trying to figure out who kidnapped his lead star (George Clooney) during the middle of filming a really big epic movie. It’s either that or he accepts a job to work in a completely different field. The film also stars Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Laurence Laurentz, Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers) as DeeAnna Moran, Tilda Swinton (Moonrise Kingdom) as Thora/ Thessaly Thacker, Channing Tatum (22 Jump Street) as Burt Gurney, Frances McDormand (Fargo) as C.C. Calhoun, Jonah Hill (22 Jump Street) as Joe Silverman, Veronica Osorio (Diego And Valentina) as Carlotta Valdez, Alison Pill (Milk) as Mrs. Mannix, Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit) as Communist Writer, and the film was directed by Ethan and Joel Cohen (No Country For Old Men).
I am a huge fan of the olden days of Hollywood and America at the time with the fashion, hairstyles, and just the way of life. So it’s easy for me to say that I really enjoyed that aspect of the film, but as far as the overall film was concerned, I didn’t think it was a great film. I thought the film was relatively OK for a Cohen’s brothers movie. The film for a while seemed to be a behind the scenes look at what went down in the classic Hollywood era of the big studios and the way they covered up scandals from the press. The kidnapping of George Clooney’s character to me seemed more like a side story than the main focus of the film which kind of bothered me, but usually anything that was happening it always went back to it. Some of the things I enjoyed watching was how the films were made and the big scenes that we saw like the pool scene with Scarlet or the bar scene with Channing. Those were some of the cool moments of the film that maybe people overlooked. The film was also commentary on the ideals of those times especially with the paranoia of communism. That was a big issue back in those days and the writers are the ones that organize it in this film. They feel they need more recognition than they get which was also maybe a sign of the times then. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s not great either. That is why I am going to give the film an B for a final grade. Rent it from Redbox or On demand if it’s available.
I want to start off by wishing everyone a happy and safe fourth of July. While yesterday’s film was loosely based on a true story, today’s film Everest claims to be based on a true story of the 1996 tragedy. Ever since the first person to successfully climb Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary in 1953, people have been obsessed by making the climb which is 29,000 plus feet in the air. In 1996, Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) led an expedition to the top of Mount Everest, but what was supposed to be a triumphant occasion quickly went south. While up at the top of the summit, a wild and crazy storm hits the mountain forcing all the men to fight for their lives as they try to make the trek back down the mountain. The film also stars Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men) as Beck Weathers, Jake Gyllenhaal (Zodiac) as Scott Fischer, Sam Worthington (Terminator: Salvation) as Guy Cotter, Emily Watson (Red Dragon) as Helen Wilton, Tim Dantay (Summer) as John Taske, Michael Kelly (Now You See Me) as John Krakauer, Naoko Mori (Spice World) as Yasuko Namba, John Hawkes (Lincoln) as Doug Hansen, Martin Henderson (The Ring) as Andy Harris, Keira Knightley (Domino) as Jan Hall, and the film was directed by Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns).
Before I get into what is fact and what is fiction about a film that clearly says that it’d BASED on a true story, I wanted to say that I really loved the film. There were way too many names to list in the above paragraph, but this was just an excellent film with excellent performances all around. Jason Clarke is a superstar and is becoming one of my favorites in the business and you can’t go wrong with the performances from Jake Gyllenhaal or Josh Brolin. It was truly an all star cast in my opinion in a film that could have gone one or two ways. This could have been a boring film about mountain climbing, but it ended up being a story about the power of belief and the will of man. These men faced unbelievable odds while climbing the mountain and while I said what was supposed to be a day of triumph turned into tragedy. Apparently John Krakauer has said this about the film, “It’s total bull … Anyone who goes to that movie and wants a fact-based account should read Into Thin Air.” After watching the film, he was annoyed at the notion that he never attempted to help anyone on the rescue mission, he says, “I never had that conversation. Anatoli came to several tents, and not even Sherpas could go out. I’m not saying I could have, or would have. What I’m saying is, no one came to my tent and asked.” To read the rest of the article, click here. There is always going to be differentiating opinions on what really happened in a film, you just have to take it or leave it. I shed some tears at certain parts of the film that I won’t give away, but it has to do with Rob and his wife Jan. Check out the film on HBO or HBOGO right now. I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade.
This was one of those films that came out last year that I never had the chance to see and when I saw that it was available on Redbox, I jumped on the chance. The United States has been fighting the war on drugs on every single (Local, State, DEA, FBI, etc.) level ever since the Reagan administration. Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is sort of a straight laced, by the book FBI agent who is knee deep in the war on Mexican cartels in Arizona. After an incident where she found tons of bodies, she is recruited by a government task force that is led by an unconventional CIA agent (Josh Brolin) and a mysterious Latino man (Benicio Del Toro) working with the CIA to hunt down a drug lord. The mission is tough for Kate as she begins to notice that they’ll do anything to catch the man. The film also stars Victor Garber (Argo) as Dave Jennings, Jon Bernthal (Fury) as Ted, Daniel Kaluuya (Kick Ass 2) as Reggie, Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) as Steve Forsing, Raoul Max Trujillo (Riddick) as Rafael, Julio Cedillo (The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada) as Fausto Alarcon, Bernardo P. Saracino (Frontera) as Manuel Diaz, Maximiliano Hernandez (Warrior) as Silvio, and the film was directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners).
I am going to come out and say it and that is I am a huge fan of Denis Villeneuve films because they are dark, intense, and they keep you on the edge of your seat. I think just about everyone has seen Prisoners which was dark and intense, but if you haven’t seen Enemy, then you need to. You also need to see this film if you haven’t because the last half of the movie gets really intense. There’s this one scene when they are preparing to go forward with a mission that the score gets as intense and suspenseful as the scene. That is the perfect marriage between score and film which is what we all aim for when making a film. It’s really hard to choose who the MVP of the film is because Josh Brolin is as amazing as usual and Benicio Del Toro is pretty intense in the film too. For a while, you are trying to figure out what an assassin has to do with the story, but once you get it, you really get it and you move forward. I am going to warn you that at times some of the images you may see on screen can get pretty intense, but we are dealing with the Mexican Cartel after all and they’ve done some pretty nasty stuff. This could be a contender for movie of the year, but it’s hard because 2015 was a really good year for films. Anyways, I am going to give this film an A- for a final grade so check it out for yourself.