A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “NEWS OF THE WORLD” – 8.5

 

“NEWS OF THE WORLD” – 8.5

 

In a word:  Heroic

 

That “In a Word” refers mostly to the main character deftly played by Tom Hanks, in which the former Civil War captain starts out in a low-key role that lulls the audience until he inadvertently meets up with a lost and fumbling little blonde-haired girl who had been left behind by her adopted Indian Tribe.  Now a travelling preacher/teacher of sorts, Hanks tries many times to leave the mute child with another adult family on the prairie, but her behavior and absence of communication leaves prospective adopters at a loss, thus returning the rejected child back to Hanks, again and again.

     The movie depicts a myriad of struggles, besides the harsh elements in the Texas prairies of 1870 in which the rugged old man and the child face death, destruction, starvation and violent criminals along the way. The two eventually bond which brings the viewer into their hearts.

     This captivating film shows us the profound morality of a returned old military man who becomes a lifesaver for a ten-year old child. The scenic photography in this movie is spectacular from all angles. Hanks, a top-rate actor throughout his career, will undoubtedly be nominated for an Oscar.

     The attention given to the child actress will captivate all audiences, as this young girl, now 12, rises to a level for child acting rarely seen in our lifetimes. Her real name is Helena Zengel, who originally hailed from Germany.  She received various accolades in Europe for her 2019 role in the foreign film, System Crasher, for which she won four Best Actress awards. I foresee her not only being nominated for best supporting actress in this film, she will win.

     Rated PG. There is a scene or two with profanity but it’s not rife. The viewer is also provided a few scenes involving violence, pain and suffering.

     A slow start will bring some ratings down, but the storyline is too emotionally powerful not to give it a high rating.

I give this movie 8.5 out of 10.

News of the World (2020) – IMDb

 

A point of trivia:  What do the following movie titles have in common?   “Sully” … “Saving Private Ryan” … “Captain Phillips” … “Apollo 13” …“News of the World.”  Main stars are all cast as a current or prior military Captain by…(Drum roll please)… Tom Hanks.

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “MANK” – 7.0

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “MANK” – 7.0

 

In a word:  Boring

 

Different strokes for different folks, as they say.  Some people will love this movie, others will walk out at the halfway point.

     In a nutshell, the movie centers on the true-life misery, talent and wit of famed screenwriter, Herman J. Mankiewicz (aka Mank) who was also well known as an unabashed alcoholic.  Played by journeyman actor, Gary Oldman, the plot (if you call it that) centers on the Oldman character, in which he staggers and slurs from scene to scene among the Hollywood elite, including Orson Welles, who was to be the primary actor in the eventually released 1941 blockbuster, “Rosebud.” It would eventually become the signature role for Welles.

     First, the reader here must know that yours truly is in the minority among most reviews of this film, which frequently takes place in Mank’s bed passing out or recovering from a hangover. Matter of fact, there are hardly any scenes which depict Mank pecking on a typewriter, nor does he spend time dictating dialogue to his secretary, who does most of his typing.  That might beg the question; who really wrote the actual screenplay? (stay tuned, that’s coming)

     I was first impressed that the movie is deftly based in a late 1930’s backdrop, presented totally in black and white. That worked great for Schindler’s List, but it slowed down to a crawl in Mank.

      Scene by scene the viewer must discern the constant drone of dialogue, which could probably have been edited for brevity, and still keep the movie of interest.

     I’ve oft complimented Gary Oldman’s acting talents, which now cover a period of nearly 40 years, winning many awards, including an Oscar in 2018 for Darkest Hour, playing Winston Churchill. He now has another six movies in production or pending release.

     It should be noted that Mank did apparently complete the manuscript for Rosebud and eventually shared an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with Orson Welles.

     This is not a great movie for anyone with Attention Deficit Disorder, because the viewer will tend to wander (mentally). The acting is very good among the entire cast, as are many other aspects of the film, i.e. period and backdrop details, photography, etc.

     I give this film a 7.0 out of 10

Mank (2020) – IMDb

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “HILLBILLY ELEGY” – 10.

“Hillbilly Elegy”  10

 

In a word: Powerful

The movie was based on the non-fiction book of the same title, authored by one of the main characters who actually drives the story, J.D. Vance.

     To begin, we must acknowledge the awesome array of class A actors, each of whom played a critical role in the film. These could not have been easy roles to play. Any of the primary cast members could be worthy nominations and/or Oscar awards, to and including Best Director, Ron Howard.

     The movie is set in two complicated periods of life first in the squalor within Kentucky in the 1990s and then Ohio later on.

     J.D. Vance is a trouble youngster (approx. age 12) constantly searching for acceptance and love in a dysfunctional family that can barely stand each other. The movie flips back and forth from this boys struggle at age 12 to his mid-twenties trying to earn credits to attend college, only to be set back over and over, facing critical episodes of survival when his drug-addicted mother goes off the rails.

     That role belongs to one of the finest actresses now or ever, Amy Adams, who clearly struggles with mental health challenges exacerbated by drugs and alcohol, and whose actions keep the rest of the family in a down spiral.

     The Mammaw role, the rural grandmother to J.D. and his sister, is deftly played by journeywoman Glenn Close, clearly one of her greatest performances ever. I’d say she’s a lock for best supporting actress.

     The main role of J.D. Vance is played (as a young man) by Gabriel Basso, who offers quite a resume, but unknown to me until this movie. He, too, could be nominated for an Oscar.

     Beware: This movie can generate a flow of tears, especially for those who have survived family dysfunction, pain, love and loss.

     Be prepared for a few scenes of violence and a smattering of foul language that fits the story. Much like I wrote in my last review of “Let Him Be,” this is an acting lesson for and by the main characters.

     Director Ron Howard will likely be nominated for Best Director.

     It terms of pure art in the world of movie making, this movie is worthy of a 10.

Afterthought: I do have partialities when it comes to actors. Do I think Amy Adams is one of the great (not just beautiful) actresses of all time?  Guilty!

Hillbilly Elegy (2020) – IMDb

 

NPR Interview with J.D. Vance: 
‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Recalls A Childhood Where Poverty Was ‘The Family Tradition’ : NPR

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “LET HIM GO” – 9.5

A Frank movie review:

“LET HIM GO”  –   9.5

In a word:  Drama

 

Two of Hollywood’s finest star actors over the decades give their all in this powerful drama about a rural family living in the Dakotas, (c. 1961) who lost their adult son to illness. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane could each end up with an Oscar nomination, as these two professionals offer an acting lesson to all the movie wannabes, on how to make the screen come alive with the power of love, fear, loss and determination.

     The story, which personifies “drama,” begins like a slow burn, as the middle-aged couple watch on the sidelines to learn their widowed daughter-in-law remarried to a local, thus giving a new home for her and her three-year-old boy. The story becomes more intense when Lane’s character, as grandmother, becomes incensed learning that the grandchild and his mother have been subjected to mistreatment. Thus begins the emotional journey as the grandparents embark on a dangerous mission to intervene, a more difficult task than they bargained for.

     The movie has a sluggish beginning which gradually crescendos as the story intensifies keeping viewers at the “edge of your seat.” The finale is deeply vicious, unanticipated by Costner and Lane’s characters. Acting credits are not only due the star players, but the supporting cast as well, particularly Leslie Manville, who plays a powerful role as the other psychotic grandmother who dominates the backward family of rugged men. Though not as well-known as Costner and Lane, her professional credits and numbers of award nominations reveal how remarkable this woman’s career has been. I look for a possible Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

     This movie does contain some violence, but no graphic sexuality nor the usual offering of vulgar language. Near the end, I turned to my wife and said, “Do you believe this? There’s no “F” word in the entire movie.” It is a learning film worth accessing by  aspiring actors.

     Refreshing, indeed, was coming to a film that was good because it did not rely on special effects, sex, nudity, vile language and non-stop violence and weaponry.

     I give this a 9.5 out of 10.    

Let Him Go (2020) – IMDb

 

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “HONEST THIEF” – 7.0

 

In a word:   Engrossing                    

 

Liam Neeson is one of those actors who cannot make a bad movie. Much like DiNiro, Cruise and so many more, he always gives it 100 percent, while making his tough-guy  characters as believable as possible. “Honest Thief” is a good movie, but not a great movie, mainly because of too many implausibles.

     Based in a major city in America, Neeson plays a middle-aged widower raising a boy and, for the last several years, worked at becoming a top-flight bank robber because he had been a munitions expert in the military and knew the mechanics of entering a safe undetected. Over the years, he amassed some 9 million dollars, but never spent any of it (Implausible #1) but rather, he stored the cash in boxes inside a rental storage facility.

     Alas, Neeson’s character meets the woman of his dreams and decides he will give up crime and confess to her, and to the FBI, his crimes, and return the money in the hope of earning a short sentence. (Implausible #2) Sounds good enough, but the mission becomes more dangerous when the FBI agents are more personally interested in his piles of cash. Everything goes wrong, even the confession, as he and his lady friend are faced with separate lives for many years.

     As usual, a number of fight scenes consist of the inevitable overdose of martial arts, compliments of the good-and-bad guys, as well as a few shoot-outs.  (Implausible #3).

     The new romance for Neeson is played by Kate Walsh, a very good actress. I can’t say the same for some in the supporting cast, especially those who played the crooked FBI agents. It just didn’t work for me and, I would imagine, the FBI as well.

     I can opine that Neeson is truly a gifted actor, who will likely be confined to more shoot-‘em-ups and too many scenes of martial arts combat, rather than deep, moving roles like he did in Schindler’s List. Regardless, the film was entertaining, but not worthy of any Oscar nominations.

     I’d give this movie a 7 out of 10.

Honest Thief (2020) – IMDb