true story

[Movie Review] Crying Tears of Red, White & Blue for ‘Patriots Day’

patriotsday_tgofposterPeter Berg has clawed his way into a comfortable if controversial niche. Some might call it shameless exploitation of national tragedy, but the filmmaker for the most part manages to treat these sensitive topics with just enough respect to skate by. Patriot’s Day is Berg’s second release of 2016, but one that strike’s a chord that’s still a little fresher in our memories. Perhaps the most surprising is that while the film focuses less on the marathon bombing and more on the following investigation and capture of those responsible. The result is a rousing thriller that just happens to be based on real-life events that still manages to force out some tears.

Unlike most of Berg’s latest true story films you’d be hard pressed to have to explain the Boston marathon bombing to just about anyone old enough to have the urge to see the movie. The film focuses on the involvement of a hobbled police officer, Tommy Saunders (Berg’s muse, Mark Wahlberg), who finds himself at ground zero of finish line explosions and wrapped up in several aspects of the following investigation. Along the way there are a number of high profile actors poking there heads in for their masculine man-isms and over written one-liners but Wahlberg’s character easily shares the majority of the spotlight.  (more…)


Oscar Double Dose Review: American Sniper & Foxcatcher

americansniper_posterClint Eastwood is a legend, no doubt, and I have had quite the love/hate relationship with the films he’s directed. Bradley Cooper is a talented actor, one who I have had no doubt could carry a movie and one day be nominated for an Oscar. So with Eastwood and Cooper collaborating you would think AMERICAN SNIPER would be a harmonious true story about the most lethal sniper in American history- and you’d be wrong…at least in my opinion.

I guess I’m not being entirely fair- you wouldn’t be wrong for having loved this movie, I simply just wouldn’t agree. First things first though, AMERICAN SNIPER simply follows the life and military career of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper). The film does not get into deep detail of Kyle’s early years aside from a few scenes with his father, then moves on to events leading to his decision to become a Navy SEAL, meeting a pretty girl at a bar and starting a relationship, and eventually deciding to join the war in Iraq. As a sniper in the war Kyle racks up a startling amount of kills, earns the title of Legend amongst his peers, becomes a high priority target in the eyes of the enemy and alienates the his wife and growing family.  (more…)

Movie Review: Lone Survivor


I am in desperate need of guidance here. How is the it that the same director that brought us such an intense and ultimately moving story of heroism, bravery, resolve and sacrifice also brought us BATTLESHIP. Peter Berg has had his ups and downs in the director’s chair, but in my eyes his lowest of the low is that complete abomination that was 2012’s BATTLESHIP. It’s one of the reasons I wasn’t all that sold on giving LONE SURVIVOR a chance- but I’m happy to say I did.

It’s no secret that the title alone is a spoiler- at least to anyone that didn’t read the synopsis going in. The film dramatizes a failed Navy SEALS mission to capture a high profile member of the Taliban. Essentially the mission is compromised when the soldiers opt not to kill a pair of civilians that stumble upon them and because they let them go they find themselves surrounded by Taliban forces shortly after.


Movie Review: Fruitvale Station (2013)


Terrible things happen to good people all that time, nothing new there. The more accurate thing to say though and perhaps the more down to earth way of saying it is terrible things happen to people in general. The distinction of good or bad is completely subjective and is something that FRUITVALE STATION director Ryan Coogler masterfully depicts. Coogler’s debut film tells the tragic true story of Oscar Grant who was shot in the early hours of New Year’s Day in 2009 by a BART police officer in Oakland after an altercation on the train.

The death of Oscar is no secret hiding deep in the film, since real cell phone footage of the shooting opens the film, but the incident itself isn’t the focus of the film. Michael B. Jordan stars as Oscar as we follow his life for the nearly 24 hours leading up to the tragic incident. Aside from a flashback detailing Oscar’s criminal past, the film very much stands to paint a portrait of a flawed human being, but a human being nonetheless. There is no attempt to demonize the 22 year old, nor is there an attempt to make him out as a saint.

The events of the film simply want to give you a window into the life of someone who has made mistakes but wants desperately to start over, but moments of his past come back to haunt him around every corner. As an audience it is up for us to decide if we have to take the filmmakers word for rather or not the moments we are seeing are actually what transpired that day or if we are being manipulated so that when the inevitable happens we get that emotional gut punch.

The performances are phenomenal, none more so than Jordan who commands the screen in so many ways. The soft side of his portrayal of Oscar is what grounds the film and what sells the idea that even when he loses his temper he is still human and is not just an impossibly kind and well rounded knight in shining armor. There is strength as well as weakness behind Oscar in every frame as he is beyond sweet to his young daughter, earnest in his attempts to change his life, but quick to anger if backed into a corner to where he says things that reflect his past behavior.

Throughout the course of the film the sense of dread permeates the screen as the audience know exactly where the events are going to lead. This is where the manipulation comes into play as characters including Oscar are making plans for the future, which might be a problem for some, but again for me I’d have to pose the question of what do you expect them to say? The event in the third act did happen, so sure they didn’t need to lean heavily on it, but you can’t fudge the dialogue by having the character know that he won’t be around in the near future.

The recreation of the events on the train and the actions taken by the BART police are brilliantly done. The chaos of it all is heart wrenching and illicit such a real and visceral feeling that it all feels so vivid and great at making me feel like I’m there in the moment. The pace of it all is so chaotic that it flys by and when the gunshot echoes over the speakers I felt dazed and lost in a wave of different emotions. Knowing what happened it’s easy to get caught up in anger, which may indeed be justified, but human error cannot be understated as there are so many factors to take into consideration.

The final act of FRUITVALE STATION is gut churning and devastatingly emotional, easily making this one of the most emotionally resonant films I’ve seen this year. There’s a sense of injustice the film leaves you with as the screen goes blank and gives you information about the fate of the police involved. There are a lot of emotions running high in the moments leading up to the trigger being pulled that make what happens such a tough thing to watch, but immediately after there’s an equally affecting sense of human compassion that follows by one of the officers at the scene that makes the finale so powerful to watch.

Lots of time can be spent arguing back and forth about the role of the police in the incident that took Oscar’s life, but regardless of my feelings on that subject FRUITVALE STATION remains an extremely powerful film. Though not all to the same extent I think we can all pull moments from the events of the film to relate to and connect with and use those experiences to get the full weight of what the film is aiming for. The heart of this film surrounds all the basic human feeling and functions of love, family and responsibility and uses them all to tell this story at breathtaking levels. Emotionally manipulative or not FRUITVALE STATION is a must see film that will leave no dry eye in the house as the credits roll.

Rating: A