A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: "UNCUT GEMS" – 1.0

 
“Uncut Gems” – 1 out of 10.
 
In a word:  Frenetic
     If you like good movies don’t bother seeing “Uncut Gems.” It’s the greatest waste of viewer dollars I’ve seen in a long time.
     The premise of the plot:  A crime thriller about Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a New York City jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score. When he makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime, Howard must perform a high-risk and dangerous act, balancing business, family, and adversaries on all sides in his pursuit of the ultimate victory.
     The movie had way too many implausible scenes. For  example, the bad guys kidnap Ratner, drive him around then bring him to where his own car is parked. There, the bad guys strip him nude and deposit him into the trunk. Minutes later, in the darkness of the trunk, Ratner is using his cell phone to call his wife, who, in fact, comes to help him out.
     Cell phone in the darkness of an auto trunk? Naked?
     If you like the sounds and optics of New York City, viewers will get plenty of that. People who are concerned about crime and vulgarity, prepare for an overdose, particularly the “F” bomb and “MF” that seems to adorn every sentence of dialogue. In some spots, the dialogue is lost in all the frenzy because we cannot hear over the relentless screaming by people or the blaring of backdrop music which would be better used as a “hands off” torture technique at Gitmo.
     We walked out after an hour. 
     Pure junk film.
     I give it a 1 out of 10, only because Sandler is a surprisingly adept actor. 
Uncut Gems (2019) – IMDb

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: "RICHARD JEWELL" – 7.5

“RICHARD JEWELL” – 7.5
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

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: "MIDWAY" – 8.5 (M. Frank)

“MIDWAY”  –  8.5
 
     In a word: Deja Vu
Here’s the short version. “Midway” is a well-made war movie, but if you’re a middle-aged (or older) you will think you’re seeing the 1970 version, “Tora Tora Tora” all over again. It’s a remake, a la, scene after scene of American pilots flying, bombing and diving over Japanese war ships.
Just as in “Tora,” Yamamoto is often featured as the Japanese leader aboard his battleship leading the enemy into an invasion of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, and later, reciting the same phrase “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant.”
Certainly, with technology advanced over nearly 50 years, the action shots are more spectacular and frightening. And, while the Pearl Harbor raid is well-recreated at the beginning of the film, the later objective is to defeat the Japanese air and naval forces at a crucial setting at the Midway atoll, in the Pacific. The movie certainly highlights the bravery and valor of the American military heroes as they finally claim victory over the enemy but not before thousands lose their lives. Without a doubt, some filming shots are visually spectacular, as the American commanders and soldiers fight with valor.
Acting is good, though some of the lines in the early part of the movie, I thought, were too corny and amateurish for such an epic film. Main roles, such as Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Jimmy Doolittle, were deftly played by Woody Harrelson and Aaron Eckhart. But the Oscar nominations are more likely to be assigned for Cinematography, Editing and Special Effects. In a technical sense, some scenes were simply head-shakers.
I couldn’t help but think of other movies made about the Midway Atoll conflict, including a 1976 release, same title, same story, starring Henry Fonda and Charlton Heston.
Yet, seeing another “Tora” movie brings the rating down a couple points. Even the back-and-forth cross-sections of dialogue is the same, with the focus on shifting points of view from Japanese military leaders, with sub-titles, and then American men in the fighting mode. That’s a carbon copy from “Tora.”
If a revived Gone With The Wind were to be remade, I would certainly go see it. However, I hesitate to think any man in the modern era would tell his woman, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
In the modern era, advances in special effects, filming and sound, such as sensurround, can blow your eardrums off. Regardless, this is a tremendous motion picture. Very little profanity issues, no sex, but … violence?
Darn right.
I give this movie a rating 8 ½ out of 10.
 
Midway (2019) – IMDb

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