Since this is an odd holiday season, I thought I’d put together a bunch of reviews for movies I’ve seen lately, to help anyone wanting to pick something good to watch. The following can be found at Hammoudeh’s in the balad (or abdoun), with excellent quality. Luckily, they are all good movies, hence the high ratings.
The Great Debaters | The film depicts the true story of the Wiley College debaters who blazed up the south with an undefeated streak, under the guidance of teacher and poet, Melvin Tolsen, played by Danzel Washington. The team has to overcome the simply obstacles of living in the south in 1932: like racism, lynching, un-unionized farming and the depression. Washington opening lines are that of walking swiftly into his classroom, standing atop a desk and quoting Langston Hughes, making reference to the “revolution” going on in Harlem, a revolution known today as the Harlem Renaissance, something that would go on to deeply impact the works of Tolsen. Washington’s portrayal is very sharp as usual, but of course this is a man who can play both a historical “good guy” figure from African-American history as well as a cold blooded American Gangster, in the same year, and still allow the audience to appreciate both roles respectively.
Meanwhile, Forest Whitaker plays James L. Farmer Sr., a strict, religious father to 14 year-old team member James L. Farmer Jr., who of course went on year later to be one of the most significant civil rights leaders in American history.
It’s a pretty powerful film about struggle and victory. And while there have always been movies about the underdog team, and the black versus white historic milestones in American history, most of them tend to be sports; Danzel’s Remember The Titans being one of many. Rarely do we see a movie based on education and intellect.
Washington is behind the camera directing, while Oprah Winfrey produces and Suzan-Lori Parks does the writing. So with a powerful trio like that, it’s hard not to make a well done historic picture. The movie has been nominated for a Golden Globe.
It is a great watch. Overall 5/5
I Am Legend | Will Smith is the survivor of a man-made virus that was once hailed as the cure for cancer, but instead killed over 90% of the Earth’s population and turned everyone else into a “dark seeker”; a zombie-like human who feasts on anything, but only at night when the Sun goes down. But Smith, who is (or was) a famous army scientist, is determined to find a cure. Most of the movie is basically Will Smith and his dog with not a single actor in sight, until he has flashbacks to the moments before New York was sealed off in the midst of chaos and a spreading killer virus. Smith’s plays a great a role here, really depicting what it must feel to be all alone in the biggest city on Earth, picking corn in Times Square. He talks to himself and to his dog. And he has trouble keeping sane sometimes. The movie is well executed and directed. The story is of course based on science fiction, but for some reason, there is a realistic feel to it. There are many parts that are designed to startle you out of your seats and most of the movie will remind you of a more futuristic version of Tom Hanks in Cast Away, without the dark seekers of course.
Another great watch, and fun movie. Overall 4/5
I’m Not There | It’s tough describing a movie that’s about Bob Dylan but not entirely. Imagine 6 different actors depicting certain phases or eras of Bob Dylan’s life and career. Every character embodies something that defines Dylan at a certain point in time,yet all of them are different, have different names, and are famous for different reasons. These include actors like Christian Bale, Richard Gere and Heath Ledger.
The film switches back and forth between the 6 characters and their stories, some very much entwined with the other, which is a reflection of the influences on Dylan’s life and music. It’s also very much a kind of art-house film, and not a convention biopic. There are day dreams, floating characters, and strange manifestations, with many scenes moving from color to black and white.
Cate Blanchett, perhaps an odd choice to play a Bob Dylan, pretty much steals the show with the best portrayal of him. She also plays him during the 60’s when he hung out with the Beatles, picked up an electric guitar, wore dark glasses and had tall curly hair. It’s the Dylan a lot of people remember the most. Blanchett is simply amazing and nails the speech, and mannerisms down pat.
This isn’t a film for everyone. This isn’t a biopic like Ray or Walk The Line, but then again, while Ray Charles and Johnny Cash are great musicians, Bob Dylan is probably one of the most influential people in American history, with much of his music and poetry, documenting it. Everyone that has ever heard his music, read his words or heard him speak, has probably wondered what goes on in that mind of his. So the artsy angle of this movie suites his life. And for the actual fans of Dylan, the entire music is laced with his greatest works, including Mr. Tambourine Man, Ballad of Thin Man and Like a Rolling Stone.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age | It’s not as great as the first one and I haven’t been able to figure out why. Don’t get me wrong, comparatively to most, this sequel is a great movie, but perhaps its predecessor set the bar a bit high. Blanchett, is now an older and more experienced Queen Elizabeth who’s still unmarried and whose life is still in danger as ever. This time however a potential suitor presents himself, a charming pirate who has come back from the “new world”, played by Clive Owen. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s kingdom is now under threat from the Spain and its amassing armada, and going to war has become inevitable.
From music and costumes, the movie is as colorful as the first, which might garner itself a few nominations that way. Shekhar Kapur’s directing is phenomenal, in my opinion. Blanchett is also a more powerful actress by now, and the fact that she can play this role in the same year she plays Bob Dylan, is a remarkable feat that is similar to that of Danzel Washingtons’ this year.
It’s a good watch. Overall 4/5