Review: Richard Jewell

In 1996 I was 16 years old living in the city that was hosting the world for the Centennial Olympiad. This is the greatest sports spectacle the world sees only every four years. I was in the famed Centennial Park the night before the bombing took place. As much as the city was enamored with the games themselves, after the bombing the manhunt and subsequent trial by media of security guard Richard Jewell.

Clint Eastwood’s latest film looks at that fateful night and the FBI’s awful attempt to turn a hero into a villain. Richard Jewell was an awkward man who lived with his mother and desperately wanted to be a member of law enforcement. He took his desire a bit too seriously at times and tended to make those around him feel uncomfortable. Jewell soon landed a security job during the Olympic games at Centennial Park when one fateful night he noticed an unattended backpack and followed all the protocol despite those around him telling him he was being over ambitious.

On July 27, 1996 the bomb Jewell discovered detonated killing one woman and injuring 111 people. Had Jewell not done what he felt was best those numbers would have been drastically worse. For 3 days Jewell was a national hero and all over the media until a desperate FBI investigation team began looking at him as the suspect instead of the one man who did what was right. When ambitious reporter Kathy Scruggs discovers the FBI’s suspicions and writes a few scathing pieces in The Atlanta Journal Constitution the world soon sees an awkward man desperate for attention not the hero he actually was.

It took months of scrutiny and deep investigation until Jewell was exonerated by the FBI, but the damage had already been done to his reputation and all people saw was the man suspected of the bombing. Jewell died at 44 years old from complications of diabetes. Kathy Scruggs, the AJC journalist also had a tumultuous life and died very young from an addiction problem. The strange and troubling lives of these two may be the most fascinating part of the whole story but one that is only known because of one deranged man’s desire for chaos.

The film that Eastwood has made really gives you a palpable feel for the frustration of wrongfully accusing Jewell. It also shows a desperate law enforcement team looking to have a conviction regardless who it is all just to save face. It gives a man his due despite the fact it is more than 20 years overdue. The film shows that some good citizens do exist and sometimes people do the right thing simply because it is the right thing. Jewell did what he did because it was what was supposed to be done not for the notoriety that came with it.

The film is well done with very good acting by the entire cast which includes two Oscar winners and a Golden Globe winner. It may not rack up any awards and just a handful of nominations but it’s an intriguing film that will make you feel sorry for this man and bring sadness for a time when a city was on the world stage and was remembered for this tragedy and not what was one of the greatest Olympic Games ever.

The Saga Concludes. Review: The Rise Of Skywalker

It’s no secret that with the release of Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker, this is the end of the Star Wars saga that has entertained legions of fans for over 42 years. The story of Skywalker concludes without its creator George Lucas’ involvement as has been the case for the entire final trilogy. J.J. Abrams is once again the man behind the final trilogy and its final installment.

The story of Rey and her journey learning the force and battle against The First Order continues as does that of Kylo Ren, son of Leia and Han Solo and his rise to Supreme Leader of The First Order. Kylo Ren has now been contacted by Emperor Palpatine who was long thought to have been killed by Kylo Ren’s grandfather, Darth Vader. Palpatine is now out to put someone new in his place and Ren is set to kill the Emperor and take power for himself.

Poe and Finn are out searching the galaxy once again and return to help Rey fight a battle, she feels she needs to fight alone. Rey has come far in her training thanks to General (Princess) Leia, who has been added with old footage and a bit of movie magic.

While the final chapter has a somewhat muddled story line as well as some unnecessary turns it does do the purpose of closing out the saga with very little left to wonder about the future of the characters involved. Abrams attempts to have a few surprise moments, but I found myself not really surprised by any turns that the story took. I think the reason for this is because there aren’t many more things that surprise Star Wars fans at this point also because too big of a surprise could lead to too many open-ended questions when it is all over.

One thing is for certain, it was time for the story to end. While we all know this is NOT the end of Star Wars movies and shows and who knows what else? It IS the end of Skywalker’s and that universe in the Star Wars cannon and I think that is a good thing. It is time for all new creations of characters and creatures and stories. The success of The Mandalorian and the greatness of its creator Jon Favreau shows that there are plenty of people worthy of creating these stories and staying true to the galaxy far far away.

The saga is over and it’s a good thing despite the fact it may be bittersweet for some. We as fans got what we wanted for so long even if we may not all be completely pleased with what we got, this is how it ends and it has been something truly special in cinematic history.

Marriage Story: Review

As I get older as a movie fan, I have come to hope that once a year, a new movie will come out that I will like above all the others released. All I want is to be able to say “this was “the best” or “my favorite” of the year” and not be in doubt about my favorite. Last year without question I felt A Star Is Born was not only my favorite, but I strongly felt it was the best movie of the year.

While the year is not over, and there are many more films for the year to see, I feel very confident that I’ve seen what my favorite movie of the year is. At the time of this writing is the best movie of the year with Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver.

I remember thinking after my first viewing of A Star Is Born last year that it had been several years since a movie made me feel so much all at once, and yet just a year later I see a film that has undoubtedly equaled that, if not eclipsed last years’ experience.
Marriage Story takes you down the road that Nicole and Charlie’s haven chosen when they decide to divorce. They both share demanding careers as well as one son named Henry. They start out trying to be as accommodating and supportive of each other as possible by going through mediation.

The mediation process soon crumbles, and Nicole heads to L.A. with Henry to begin working on a T.V. series while Charlie continues to direct theater in NYC. Location ultimately becomes the most significant and most contentious point of the divorce. Nicole quickly finds herself in the hands of a high priced L.A. divorce attorney while Charlie is struggling to keep up with his ever-growing career that is soon moving to Broadway. Charlie continues to try and stay close to his son and be as accommodating as possible while not giving up.

The emotion and realism that is woven into the film through Baumbach’s script and the actor’s portrayals are nothing short of a perfect storm. The look and feel are truly timeless, and you could be watching Kramer Vs. Kramer or a John Cassavetes film because the story and characters are so paramount that you can’t help but fixate your attention on them.

Marriage Story takes you through the heartbreak and frustration of the ending of a marriage and how it truly is like a grieving process. Just as you feel you’ve chosen sides and defined the enemy, something shows the other side of the tale from the other party.

When it is all said and done, you are left heartbroken and just grateful that everyone made it through unscathed, and you get the genuine feeling that everyone will be ok and taken care of, which is all we can ask for in life anyway. I haven’t gotten as good at predicting awards, at least winners, as I used to be. Still, I would be genuinely dumbfounded not to see this film get nominated all over its possible destinations because its just too good not to recognize. Marriage Story is a movie that, at the end of the credits, I always will say to myself, “It’s because of movies like this, that I love movies!”

Joker: Review

I have been a vocal critic of the comic book movie genre for a few years now, but I will admit that I was highly anticipating Todd Philips and Joaquin Phoenix’s collaboration for an origin story of the most famous and to this day, most terrifying villain, The Joker.

The film simply titled, Joker, is a haunting imagining of how someone with such a demented mind could become so powerful and have such a loyal following of citizens. The incredible thing that Todd Philips was able to do was make you not only sympathize with the disturbed man, Arthur Fleck as he becomes the most notorious villain ever created but how you have almost zero sympathy for those that we have always known as the heroes and martyrs in the Batman stories.

Arthur Fleck has been raised by his single mother and has continued to develop serious and disturbing personality traits. While he desires to live a normal life and at times even fantasizes about it, he is a victim of his mother’s own delusions and a society that is quick to cast him out. It doesn’t take long for Arthur to give into his demented thoughts and feelings and almost over night he becomes a symbol for all those what been put upon by society and shunned by the privileged.

Everything about this film is set up to make you feel uneasy and even nervous. Todd Philips has painted a masterpiece within every shot of the film. The casting choice of Joaquin Phoenix could not have been more spot on either. With Phoenix we fear the character of Arthur Fleck and can feel his change come within him inside our own selves.

It has often been said that many times comedians make great dramatic actors because they tend to have such a darkness inside themselves. Todd Philips has proved that the same apparently is true for comedic screenwriters and directors. Joker is a far cry from his side-splitting comedy of films such as, Old School and The Hangover trilogy. Philips does manage to have comedic moments in the film, but they are so dark at one point I got a dirty look from someone because I laughed at a moment that was a seriously dark turning point in the movie but just one sight gag I couldn’t help be realize the comedy affect Philips was aiming for. Award season is right around the corner and while I don’t expect Joker to pile on the awards, I do expect for Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Philips to load up on nominations and take home a li

Robert De Niro’s Best Of The 1980’s

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By the time 1980 hit, Robert De Niro was a true star in Hollywood, in every sense of the word. He had multiple Academy Award nominations under his belt. He had teamed up with Martin Scorsese and started a legendary partnership. Some of his greatest success was yet to come.

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5. Once Upon A Time In America
De Niro was at a point in his career where working on projects he wanted to and working with anyone he wanted was no doubt his choice. De Niro was the first person cast in Sergio Leone’s final film. He had enough clout to have input on many aspects of the film, including his fellow cast members. It would receive mixed reviews, but as time went on it has become a more respected and even definitive film.

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4. The King Of Comedy
A rather dark comedy directed by, once again, Martin Scorsese, makes for another great De Niro performance. His portrayal of Rupert Pupkin is torturous and almost painful. A comedian who so desperately wants in on show business he stalks his idol, late night talk show host, played by iconic funny man Jerry Lewis. De Niro’s methods were in full swing and his ability to draw out great performances from fellow cast mates really came through.

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3. The Untouchables
Having made a name for himself playing mafia gangsters and gangster types lead Brian De Palma to cast him as the most notorious gangster of all time, Al Capone. Being as method of an actor as possible, he became Capone right down to the underwear. He would again receive an Oscar nomination for a spot on portrayal.

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2. Midnight Run
A more straight up comedy, Midnight Run was a popular a more of a box office success than the 3 previous film. De Niro proved he could play straight up comedy alongside other great comedic actors, including his co-star, Charles Grodin. It is unmistakable that De Niro put his whole talents in the film, adding to the character and really making it his own. It is still a popular film and often showed movie all over TV and there is no doubt in my mind that De Niro has quite a bit to do with that.

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1.Raging Bull
The Scorsese/ De Niro teaming would prove its most prolific to date when Scorsese would come out of his comfort zone with a sports film, all at the urging of De Niro. De Niro is even often credited with saving Scorsese’s life by visiting him in the hospital after a cocaine overdose. By urging him to make the film and get back to work is what brought him straight. It would prove valuable on all fronts as De Niro would win a best actor Academy Award and the film would go down in history as one of Scorsese’s best and one of the best of all time.