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

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: THE SECRETS WE KEEP – 9/10

“The Secrets We Keep”    9.0

In a word: Powerful!

Pete Hammond, who writes for Hollywood Daily, sums it up in one complex sentence, posted on Rotten Tomatoes:

       “Noomi Rapace is fierce and powerful in this suspenseful and thought provoking post WWII Nazi revenge thriller.”

     The worst thing this movie is the blah title, certainly not enticing to the potential viewer. It would have been better titled “Secrets” then let the viewer fill in the blanks. The second worst aspect is the slow pace in the first 20-30 minutes whereby some scenes could have been cut or shortened without losing the enticement.

     However, once those first 20 minutes pass, the storyline falls into place in a city in middle America set in the late 1950’s, where the emotional and physical scars from World War II still haunt the survivors.  It’s not long that the viewer is psychologically captured in this heart-wrenching saga about a woman from Romania who married an American doctor after the war, as they seem to live happily ever after. That all abruptly changes when she spots, she thinks, one of the wicked soldiers who left her for dead after mentally damaging her for all time fifteen years earlier.

     While actress Noomi Rapace’s character cannot let go of the horrible memory, her marriage, and the marriage of the suspected Nazi, are at serious risk. She virtually cannot stop herself from dwelling on the nightmare, believing this is the man who will haunt her for life, while her doctor husband does all he can to secure the marriage.

     This is one of those edge of the seat pictures, complete with sorrow and tears, reminding us that not only did WWII create suffering from the 50 million deaths, but also within the minds and hearts of millions more still living.

     Without question, the focus of the story the character played by Noomi Rapace, a Romanian/Swiss actress who I’d never heard of, though she has played in many movies from around the world. This performance was, without a doubt, Oscar worthy. The rest of the cast also performed well, but the intensity we felt from Noomi Rapace left me speechless as I watched the list of credits, much the way I watched “Schindler’s List” as the tears welled.

     Like “Schindler,” this movie is not about wild chases, and guns, and tricks and sex, it’s all about drama and the fragility of life.

     (As a side note, it sure was great watching a movie on the big screen, though there were only two people in the auditorium, Suzanne and me.)

     I give this movie a 9 out of 10.

The Secrets We Keep (2020) – Full Cast & Crew – IMDb