A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW – "1917" – 10.0

“1917”  –  Rating:   10.0
     In a word:  Intense
Alex Heeney is a movie critic who writes for Seventh Row. In regards to “1917”, he opines: 
    1917 is breathtaking in every way. A chamber drama tucked inside an exquisitely rendered war epic, 1917 is more heart-stopping thriller than traditional war movie.
     Before writing this review, I accessed a number of other professional critics to see if there was a consensus, because I had agreed totally with Mr. Heeney. The great majority of critics I found shared similar feelings about this picture.
     I think this will go down as one of the top ten war movies of all time, on a level with “Saving Private Ryan,” “Midway” and “Schindler’s List.”
     The basic premise of the story is as simple as it is complicated. During the final stages of WWI when Great Britain was in a critical position in the French countryside fighting the Germans, Lance Corporal Blake and Lance Corporal Schofield, young soldiers each, are selected by the field commander to embark on a harrowing foot mission to deliver a critical message to another American brigade commander thought to be trenched in miles away. The dire message, which could only be delivered by hand, is a matter of life and death for the other brigade. Time was of the essence. Not only that, one of the assigned soldiers is aware that his brother on the other side is facing certain death if the message is not received in time.
     The cinematography is outstanding throughout. One scene after another, we found ourselves caught up in the intensity and the horrors of war, as these two brave soldiers dodged one obstacle after another. The sense of realism reminded me of “Private Ryan.” 
     Did the soldiers achieve their goals?  Watch the movie.
     Director Sam Mendes is rightfully in line for a Best Director Oscar, one of nine other categories in which this movie earned nominations, including best cinematography.  
     The boys who played starring roles – Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay — certainly had their fitness tested to the limits in scene after scene of grueling dangers and near-impossible obstacles, not to mention having to wade through a sea of dead bodies.
     Alex Heeney said it best. It is breathtaking indeed. A heart-stopping thriller. As war films go, this movie would be tough to top. And, there’s very little bad language and no sexual references. 
     I give it a rare 10.
1917 (2019) – IMDb


In a word:  Awakening
     This is a Clint Eastwood film, who at the age of 89, is one of the great wonders of the world, delving into the depths of the actual story then making it come alive in film. This was a good movie, but not one of his best. That’s saying a lot, because most of his films have been first class.
     Fans going to see this film must first know that it is intended to be a docudrama, based on a true story that focuses around an overweight frumpy security guard who was a police-wannabe, working for a company which assigned him a guard role at the 1996 Olympics in Atanta where – amid the throes of thousands of citizens – he (Jewell) discovers a suspicious backpack under a bench in Centennial Park. His frenetic actions warning everyone in the area, caught the attention of police and other security personnel, though his allegations about a package with a bomb inside was doubted by many. Shortly after he began screaming at people to get back, “Get Back,” sure enough a bomb exploded. Two died, scores were injured. There would have been more victims if not for Jewell’s actions.
     Without revealing the most important aspects of the investigation, suffice to say that the law enforcement community, headed by FBI, focused entirely on Richard Jewell as the prime suspect, to the exclusion of anyone else. With all the interrogations and searches and humiliation, it changed his life forever.  
     Besides what happened to Jewell, a strong message in the film depicts how investigations should not be conducted and how media, in the hunt for the big story, can get it wrong. When authorities form a narrow focus on one individual based on unsupported circumstances that prove nothing, and refuse to expand the probe elsewhere, they are violating the rules of evidence and recklessly stomping on the rights of individuals. This reminds me of the Bill Dillon and Wilton Dedge cases in the early 1980s in Florida that stripped innocent men of their freedom for decades by concocting false evidence for no other reason than “winning.”
     Paul Howser deftly plays the key role of Richard Jewell, while veteran actor, Sam Rockwell plays an Oscar-worthy performance as Jewell’s lawyer. What I liked the least about the movie, were a number of scenes and dialogue that seemed amateurish, departing from reality in depicting police conduct and procedures. As a former career cop, those scenes felt like the proverbial “fingernails on the blackboard.”  For that, we’d have to call out the writers, and I suppose, the director.
     Regardless, it’s a movie worth seeing and a story worth knowing about. In real life, this was about selecting a target, then contriving evidence to support an untruth. This, according to the film, was clearly the fault of the prime FBI investigator and a story-thirsty reporter.
     I give this a 7.5 out of 10.  
Richard Jewell (2019) – IMDb


     In a word: Engrossing
     This is a great movie, with shades of Agatha Christie and John Grisham creating a plot with so many twists and turns that keep the viewer lasered to the characters while anticipating what comes next in every scene. For people who like mystery, this is a do-not-miss film.
     The irony is that this film may not draw appeal among the bread-and-butter movie goers, the massive count of youths and millennials who keep the film industry thriving. The usual come-ons are absent.  There are no sex scenes, no nudity. No one uses the “F” word as a perennial adjective. Guns and bombs are not going off in every other scene. No Sci-fi or super natural. There is a scene or two involving struggles and one killing, but the story does not surround those events as the basis for the storyline. What does emerge will surprise everyone.
     The main characters are not a young hot woman and a sexy jock, nor politically correct mixed races as we often see today. Rather, the story encompasses two lonely British people in their late 70s, a widow and widower deftly played by Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen who meet up after responding to social ads, hopefully in search of a mate. What transpires from this encounter, was totally unpredictable to (I’m sure) most of the audience. While I will not ruin it for the movie goer, suffice to say that there was far more to the meet-up than what could have been anticipated. Those profound and crafty revelations continue to emerge throughout the film to the very end. When it’s over, you know you’ve been witness to one of the greatest movie mysteries in ages.
     Mirren and McKellen should not only be Oscar nominated for best acting, they should be admired for playing their difficult mental and physical roles so adroitly, particularly at those ages.  I’m sure the movie will be nominated for a Best Picture award, as should the director Bill Condon and writers, Nicholas Searle and Jeffrey Hatcher.
     Movie reviewer, Johnny Oleksinski, of the New York Post, writes:
     “The fun of “The Good Liar” is that, just when you think you’ve got a proper handle on what’s going on, your reality is completely shattered.”
     Movie reviewer, Kenneth Turan, from the L.A. Times, writes:
      “Through it all, however, Mirren and McKellen never waver. Smooth at being smooth, their conviction always convinces us, and their ability to register multiple subtle changes of emotion is consistently impressive.”
     I could find no serious fault with the movie.  Give it a 10 out of 10.
     The Good Liar (2019) – IMDb


“HARRIET” – 9.5 
     In a word:  Powerful
A month ago, I wrote a movie review of “Judy” that began like this:
     “I can see it coming …“And the Oscar goes to – Renee’ Zellweger”…
Now I say, Whoa, not so fast. I hadn’t yet seen “Harriet.”
     It will be a tight Oscar race for best actress because a lesser known, 32 year-old British actress named Cynthia Erivo has given the movie industry one of the greatest female performances ever.
     The “Harriet” in this movie centers on a slave woman known in her earliest years as “Minty” who later changes her name to Harriet Tubman, a woman of unbridled courage and tenacity in the pre-civil war era in which she was responsible for hundreds of slaves being rescued and brought to freedom in the north, and later to Canada, while under the most hazardous of conditions.  She had escaped from the hands of her slaveholders in 1849 Maryland at great risk and steadily became a fearless, storied conductor on the Underground Railroad until the Civil War was over.
     This is not just a “slave era” movie in which the audience witnesses endless whippings and beatings, and heart-breaking plots of about the bane of enslavement. This picture not only brought out the physical horrors, but powerful emotional episodes that could bring the viewer to tears, as man’s inhumanity to man is personified in the script and in the superb acting by all the case, not only Erivo. Kasi Lemmons, previously unknown to me, should also be nominated for best director and/or co-writer. Ms. Lemmons has an extensive history dating back to 1989 as actress, writer and director.
     Were there a few “gotchas” on the implausible scale, or stretching of the facts? Probably. A story this huge cannot be told in a two-hour time slot without some clever artistry. No reason to get nit-picky here as the movie brings to light the essence of the era, and the well-deserved personification of a hero, like none other. Ms. Tubman’s image deserves to be enshrined on American currency, as has been proposed for the 20 dollar bill sometime down the road.
     About half the audience – blacks and whites — in the movie house broke into applause as the credits started to roll. That’s a rarity
     …And the Oscar goes to: Renee’…uhhh…Cynthia…uhhh Renee’… Cynth….Ahhh…what the heck….it’s a TIE!…
     I know others disagree, but I definitely think this film deserves a 9.5 rating.
Harriet (2019) – IMDb
Here’s a more detailed review of the movie by Roger Ebert, who gives it 4 out of 5 stars.
  Harriet movie review & film summary (2019) | Roger Ebert


(This Op-Ed by yours truly, appears in Florida Today, 20 October 2019, under title “I Got The News Families of Addicts Fear.”)
In 1972, a flower-child, divorced mother of a 12-year-old named Bennett introduced her son to marijuana. Pot use had been common in the household, so she said to Bennett, “Here. Try this. You don’t have to do this behind my back.”
So he did. Not only that, he found her secret stash in a closet and brought a pocketful to school, which turned out as a lucrative endeavor, hoisting his status to a seventh-grade drug dealer.
Not only did his mother ignorantly and wrongfully teach him that drugs were harmless, the subliminal message was worse, as he wondered why the one person who is supposed to protect her child from wrongdoing, actually encouraged it. So he wondered: Why doesn’t my mom love me?
Fast forward to age 18. After several episodes of runaway behavior, minor crimes and shifting residences with his single father, Bennett began showing signs of mental problems. A prominent psychiatrist diagnosed him as “manic-depressive,” which entitled Bennett to Social Security disability income from the government. Bennett spent three months in a treatment center under care of the doctor. When released, Bennett was prescribed Haldol and Lithium, powerful drugs meant to balance bipolar disorder.
The results were catastrophic. Bennett turned into a quivering, drooling zombie, with loss of control of body functions. Basically, the psychiatrist prescribed powerful drugs, of all things, to a drug addict, while earning his fees from the government. The doctor said he’d have to take those drugs for life.
Eventually, Bennett ran away again and went on into a drug-infested lifestyle while still collecting money from Uncle Sam for 40 years. Repeated efforts to help by family members never helped. He could not hold a job and ultimately joined the ranks of America’s homeless and mentally ill populations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes roughly 70,000 deaths a year to drug overdoses. Some 553,742 people experienced homelessness at least one day in 2017 while 19 million generally experience “housing insecurity.”
The CDC estimates that 50% of homeless people suffer from addiction. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health reports that 20% to 25% of homeless people suffer from severe mental illness. In a separate report, 17.3% of mentally ill prison inmates were homeless prior to arrest.
The crisis is clear: The land of prosperity, the free and brave, turns its back on those who are clearly mentally ill, drug dependent and imprisoned, giving them no hope at all other than more drugs and/or jail cells.
What is wrong with us?
We open our gates to third-world populations providing all the benefits of American citizens, while turning our backs on so many bona fide Americans, including war veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, relegated to finding bushes for shelter and thievery for bread.
Basically harmless to others, Bennett found ways to survive while living in a derelict used car lot, pandering for nickels and dimes. Thanks to government disability, he still maintained his flow of drugs from doctors who overlooked his motives.
In his last doctor’s visit in January, unkempt and needy, Bennett asked and received refills for Xanax and OxyContin. The next morning he was found dead in the back seat of a derelict SUV with a needle filed with Fentanyl in his arm and two empty vials of Xanax and OxyContin.
At age 58, he had struggled enough. The government system gave him money for 40 years, which only helped to maintain his habits. But he had no life.
The next morning, a plainclothes cop wearing a badge on his belt knocked on the door of a house in Suntree, Florida, and asked the man, “Do you know someone named Bennett Frank?”
“Why?” the man asked. “Is he dead?”
That man was a former police detective who had notified family members of deaths hundreds of times. This time, that family member was me. Bennett was my son.
There are no lobbyists or committees for homelessness or the mentally ill.
Out of sight …
The full story of Bennett Frank’s life and death, and what we can do, is outlined in Frank’s new book “A Boy Who Mattered.”

Marshall Frank is a retired police captain from Miami-Dade County, author and frequent contributor. Visit marshallfrank.com.