A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: "THE GOOD LIAR" -10. M. Frank

“THE GOOD LIAR” – 10
     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

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: "HARRIET" – 9.5

“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

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: "JEXI" – 3 / 10 (M. Frank)

A Frank Movie Review
JEXI  –  3 out of 10.
In a Word: Hunk-a-junk
 
First of all, do not bring kids to this movie. Sure, they’ve all heard the dirty words and seen suggestive stuff before, but this film was an overdose pushing the proverbial envelope to the edge of acceptability. There comes a time when kids need to know the barriers between art and pure garbage. Bringing a 12 year-old, even a 17 year-old to a movie like this sends a message that vile language, revolting behavior and references to male body parts – including pictures of pictures – is not acceptable in a venue that helps mold the minds and hearts of kids.
     Yes, there were a few funny scenes that made me laugh, which is why I didn’t give the movie a zero.  Rotten Tomatoes, on line, probably the most prestigious review site, awarded Jexi one star out of five.
     The premise was clever enough, if only the writers and director would have realized that excessive filth and immorality does not define humor.
     In a wrap, the movie is about a wussy fellow (Adam Devine), single, in his 20’s who is addicted to his cell phone to a point where the female voice on the other end of the phone (Jexi) not only dominates his life, she becomes his judge, jury and confidant. He has no friends, he has a job writing pop culture. He is devoid of relationships. When he is forced to upgrade his phone, the latest model comes with an unexpected feature… Jexi (Rose Byrne) — an A.I. life coach, virtual assistant and cheerleader. With her help, Phil begins to get a real life. But as he becomes less dependent on his phone, Jexi’s artificial intelligence morphs into a tech nightmare. He eventually lands a relationship with Cate, (played by Alexandra Shipp).
     Shipp is beautiful and obviously a good actress. She should be tagged for better roles in Hollywood.
     The one valid message the movie sends is how digital our mind and hearts have become in the absence of true eye-to-eye communications. I fear it is but a sign of the future.
     A.I. is the way of the future (Artificial Intelligence) I’m glad have lived in the best of times.
     I give this movie 3 out of 10.
Jexi (2019) – IMDb 
 
 

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: "JUDY" – 9/10

“JUDY” – 9 out of 10
     In a word:  Depressing
 
     I can see it coming …“And the Oscar goes to – Renee’ Zellweger”…
     She carried the entire movie. Zellweger wasn’t just playing the role of Judy Garland, she WAS Judy Garland. This is a one-woman show in which the now-deceased actress/singer was the complete center of attention in nearly every scene. Without doubt one of the best female performances in Hollywood history. When the movie ended and the credits were rolling on the screen, audience members remained glued to their seats, many wiping tears. Students of theater and motion pictures would to do well to see this film, maybe more than once.
     Judy gives us a stark background of the arduous life led by this tiny bundle of talent that most of us, from her era, knew little about. My succinct “in-a-word” label: Depressing, is not attributed to the movie as a whole, but rather a take-away denoting the highs, lows and misery endured in the constant conflicts within Judy Garland’s life.
     Those of us who are old enough to recall Judy Garland’s movies, from Wizard of Oz to the second edition of A Star is Born and more, can relate to her public persona that may have seemed glamorous to the general public, but was anything but in her private life. And, we the audience also learned much about her struggle as a talented teen girl who was seen by producer Louis. B. Mayer and other movie moguls as a piece of meat, bought and paid for, to live, eat and breathe as she was told, 24/7, property of the studio machine.
     As with so many other great stars, she turned to substance abuse as an addictive crutch to keep her afloat. Many of us older movie buffs know about her kids, Lorner Luft and Liza Minelli, stars in their own right, but we don’t know the greatest of all her heartbreaks, losing custody of her three children at an early age, which was engineered by their father. They were the greatest loves of her life, but her financial set-backs forced her to travel abroad and entertain.
     There’s far more to the story that I’ll not spoil. Enough to say, that she was one of those human beings easy to love and appreciate, whether you knew her or not. Her passing at an early age touched us all.
     If there was anything to criticize about the movie, it seemed a few scenes unnecessarily slowed the pace that the Director Rupert Goold, could have altered. This is an intense biopic in which a few lines contain crude language, but they were appropriate for the scene. You’ll see a smidgen of violence via temper tantrums, while substance abuse in the form of alcohol and drugs keep this from earning a PG rating.
     An interesting factoid: Was it more than fate that Renee Zellweger was born the same year that Judy Garland died?
     I give this a 9 out of 10.
     Judy (2019) – IMDb
    
    
 

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: "DOWNTON ABBEY" 9/10

A Frank movie review
“Downton Abbey” –  9 out of 10.
In a word: Exquisite     
     I never watched the TV series (same name), so I bring an independent assessment of this movie untainted by past images, stories and opinions.
     I wasn’t going to see the movie either, as I admittedly pre-judged this film as just another turn of the century British drama, where the elite are stuck-up, condescending, proper and boring.  But a little arm-twisting by my dear wife of 32 years convinced me to acquiesce and give it a try.
     I’m glad I did. This was an extraordinary film with plenty of sub-plots and interesting characters that kept me glued to the story, enhanced by a talented array of class-A thespians such as Dame Maggie Smith, Mathew Goode, Elizabeth McGovern and many more. If you need sex, foul language, violence and guns to spice a story, you’ll learn that good movies can be produced without those elements. Yes, it’s rated PG, a rarity these days.
     Set in early 20th century England, most of the film is centered within on the great Downton mansion amid the sprawling countryside, from which the photography is utterly captivating. The movie offers a number of interesting sub-plots that fit perfectly within the story, including romance, a secret union between mother and daughter and the naivety of royalty who are caught up in their properness. Particularly interesting is how the director, Michael Engler, kept the stories moving without unnecessary pauses that slow the pace of so many pictures these days.
      In essence, this is about working attendants and their troubles, as they prepare for the royal visit which does not go as planned. Turns out, the royal’s guests have brought their own servants and chefs. Chaos  follows as you might imagine.
     Most movie reviewers and rating sites applaud the movie, which will likely walk away with a couple of Oscars, particularly for photography, costumes and perhaps, one or two acting nominations, particularly Maggie Smith.
     An interesting bit of trivia: The movie is set during the summer months but during the parade you can see people’s breaths.
     Rotten Tomatoes gives 84% approval.  Roger Ebert gives it 4.5 out of 5.
     I, too, give it a 9 out of 10.
Downton Abbey (2019) – IMDb