It has been a busy couple of weeks around the Awesome Friday HQ, and I haven’t had a ton of time for writing, but I have caught up on a bunch of movies, so here are some brief thoughts on Bombshell, Harriet, The Gentlemen, Bad Boys for Life, and Miss Americana.
Jay Roach has an interesting career directing both comedies (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents) and political dramas (Game Change, All The Way). This time around, he’s attempting to blend the two, and it doesn’t quite work. There are some funny moments, but ultimately the film can’t decide what it wants to be. Worse yet, it feels at times like it doesn’t know who it wants to support. While yes, it is a story of men oppressing women, it also features scenes that make Roger Ailes maybe a little more human than I am comfortable with. In particular, during a scene toward the end where he is finally let go from Fox News, the entire thing is framed in a way that felt like it was trying to make me feel sympathy for the man.
While the acting is good (Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie in particular) and the casting is top-notch (any film with Jay Duplass can’t be all bad), ultimately for a film to be great, it needs to add up to more than the sum of its parts and Bombshell only adds up to exactly the sum of its parts.
Harriet Tubman was a bonafide hero. She escaped slavery, and then as a member of the underground railroad, she freed some 70 more people in multiple trips back to the south. She later joined the union army and acted as a scout, a spy, and a military leader. Her life story is incredible and exciting. It’s a shame then that this movie is so unengaging.
Cynthia Erivo is good in the title role, but the film feels like a TV movie, and it skips through most of the story at a breakneck pace. Hopefully, one day her story will be adapted into a limited series of some kind and given its proper due.
It turns out that Guy Ritchie is pretty good at directing gangster movies with convoluted plots and unreliable narrators. Who knew, right?
The Gentlemen is just that: a pretty good movie. It doesn’t quite match up to Ritchies earlier efforts, but it’s still a fun time. Matthew McConaughey and Michelle Dockery are having a blast, Hugh Grant makes a meal of the scenery as the unreliable narrator, and Charlie Hunnam is legitimately great as McConaughey’s right-hand man (and that’s not something I often say about Charlie Hunnam).
There is some unfortunate humour in the film — it’s 2020, and we should be beyond making fun of Asian accents for a start— but if you see it come up to rent, you could definitely do worse.
Bad Boys For Life
I don’t know why I am surprised that a 26-years-later action movie sequel starring one of the world’s biggest movie stars returning to one of his earliest breakout roles has been such a success, but Bad Boys For Life is a success on the important fronts. It has made a bunch of money, and it’s a good movie.
In fact, it’s a surprisingly thoughtful story about the nature of getting older, what it means to be partners, what happens when our past catches up with us, and how to pass the torch. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are both great, the new young supporting squad is fun, and the story’s villain is a witch.
Plus, because directors Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi seem to be doing their best homage to Michael Bay rather than their best impression of him, the filmmaking is also fun and engaging. Lots of longer takes and wider angles make the action coherent and fun. Definitely worth a watch.
Taylor Swift, love her or hate her, is one of the defining musical artists of the last decade. Miss Americana chronicles the making of her most recent album, using it as a frame story to explore the singer’s career from her beginnings as a teenager all the way to the present, painting an intimate portrait not just of the art but of the artist and her evolving sense of self and responsibility amid the ever-changing sea of fan adulation and backlash.
I don’t think it matters if you like her music (I do, for the record), this movie is a fascinating look at an artist and how she got to where she is and who she’s evolved into being—highly recommended.
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