Monthly Archives: October 2017

Movie Review: Marshall

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: Thurgood Marshall was an unbelievable human being. This movie doesn’t do him justice. It’s still good, though.

Thurgood Marshall is one of those characters from history that defies reality. There is no way that someone like him could actually exist, is there? Well, yes, he certainly did and he left an indelible mark on the United States of America. To have him replaced on the Supreme Court by the likes of Clarence Thomas is almost as big a slap in the face of history as replacing Barack Obama with Donald Trump. The history of racism knows no lows and has a deep and long memory and will always exact its revenge for perceived slights. I kind of feel the same way about this movie. It is a slight against Thurgood Marshall’s legacy while wrapped in the veneer of an homage to the larger than life man.

I should back up a little and say that this is actually a good movie. It follows one of Thurgood Marshall’s (Chadwick Boseman) early cases when he was the only lawyer working for the NAACP. He enlists the help of an insurance claims lawyer named Sam Friedman (Josh Gad who is apparently required to be in every movie this year) since Marshall is not licensed to practice law in the state. The case is a defense of a black man who is accused of raping a white woman. Unsurprisingly, this case is both racially and politically charged. The movie is a very effective and slick courtroom drama and the topic is handled with both seriousness and some wink-nudge humor. Boseman does an excellent job of portraying Thurgood Marshall. You get the feeling that Marshall is one of those incredibly likeable and charismatic individuals whose job has taught him exactly how much of an asshole to be in any given situation. Gad as Friedman is also quite effective as a successful Jewish lawyer who doesn’t really want any part in the whole affair but is drawn in by Marshall as I’m sure hundreds of other people were.

What’s the problem then? Why does this movie do Thurgood Marshall a disservice? Because the movie is as much about Sam Friedman as it is about Thurgood Marshall and only barely touches on the large life of an African American icon. Already having one movie made about Marshall, what are the chances of another being produced, let alone one that sufficiently extols the greatness of this man? If not zero, the chances are very close to that number. What Marshall deserves is a Netflix series. Season after season of his trials, tribulations, successes, and failures, all wrapped around the thousands of people his legacy has touched.

You should all go see this movie. It really is good despite my social justice warrior outrage. But do yourself a favor. After seeing the movie, pick up a biography of the man. I certainly plan to.

Book Review: Dreams Of Gods And Monsters by Laini Taylor

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

“Dreams of Gods and Monsters” is book three of Laini Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” series. It brings the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion. This novel recaptures much of the magic that made book one a delight to read and that was missing in “Days of Blood and Starlight“. Though, it does take a while for the story to get going. Whereas book one was all hope and love and magic ending in tragedy, and book two was almost all tragedy, book three starts with tragedy and grows back into hope and love and magic. It also ties myths and legends brought up in book one rather satisfactorily.

For the longest time, something was picking at my brain while I was reading this book, but I couldn’t figure it out. There was a complete not-rightness to it that was thwarting my enjoyment. Finally, around half way through, I figured it out. It was time. Or more specifically, the complete lack of passage of it. The entire novel takes place over a span of just about 72 hours if you don’t count the epilogue. In that time, an impossible amount of events take place. Worlds are traversed, large distances are flown, patience is lost because of decisions taking too much time. Once I figured that out, I started to enjoy the book a lot more. I am not sure if it was because of that or because it happened to coincide with the return of a bit of mirth and levity to the story. It might also be because the wishes finally made a comeback. Wishes in the trilogy were a beautiful source of ridiculousness packed into an almost currency-like system. They were completely lacking in book two and it was all the worse for it.

Any softness of plot and sloppiness of storytelling, for instance book three has a bit of a deus ex machina going on, is overcome by Laini Taylor’s writing style. She has an almost melodic, poetic voice in her writing. It isn’t often where I find myself paying much attention to the chapter titles, but hers are delightful and intriguing in how they fit into the chapter’s story. It isn’t just that, though. Taylor is also quite adept at capturing little moments with clarity and beauty. I feel as if she’s almost missed her literary calling and instead of writing novels, she should try her hand at the short story, the most difficult of narratives.

Having finished the trilogy, I am not sure I can whole-heartedly recommend reading it even though I quite enjoyed the journey. I think the hopeless romantics in the audience will get a lot of enjoyment out of these books. Also, Taylor has also created quite an imaginative world and has left enough rough edges to allow the more creative among us to smooth out those edges with their own stories. I also must remind myself that these are young adult books and, while pretty dark at times for young adults, it is a series that would very likely appeal to them as well.

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: A beautiful movie from start to finish with a good story to boot. Did not at all seem like a 164 minute movie.

Our dark, dismal future never looked so beautiful. There can be a captivating quality to bleakness, an allure to destitution. This movie captures those qualities perfectly. There is so much attention to detail in the movie the mind boggles. Add to that a perfectly jarring soundtrack and you have a handful of Academy Awards just waiting for you to pick up.

I have not seen the first “Blade Runner” movie (I know, heaven forbid!) and I can safely say that you don’t need any of the knowledge from the first to enjoy the second even though Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) from the first movie is integral to the second. Blade Runners are kind of like bounty hunters. They search for replicants, which are basically engineered humans created to do horrible tasks for “real” humans, and either capture or kill them, replicants being outlawed after a couple replicant mutinies. In “Blade Runner 2049”, a new version of replicants are legal because they are more loyal, but the remaining old versions are still hunted down. Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is a newer version replicant working for the LAPD to hunt down the old versions. While hunting down an older replicant, Officer K discovers a secret and attempts to track down the source, all the while being followed by his creator, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), and Wallace’s replicant agent, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), who also want to know the answer to this secret.

As this is a movie mainly about “fake” humans, it delves greatly into the concept of what it is to be human. Can a replicant have a soul? Can a replicant love? What even is love? Does someone have to be real to be loved? Does someone have to be real to love? So, yeah, lots of thoughts on what love really is. Those scenes are some of the most touching moments of the film.

When you can make a 164 minute movie and make it seem like no time has passed, you know you’ve made a good movie. “Blade Runner 2049” definitely fits that bill. Sure, there’s lots of establishing shots and scenes made more for their beauty than for their utility, but you won’t regret any of those scenes. This is film making at its finest and deserves to be seen on the big screen.

Movie Review: Battle Of The Sexes

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: Man, Billy Jean King is awesome. And Bobby Riggs was a lovable prick. This is their story. Dun DUN!

The Battle of the Sexes, a tennis match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs, happened the week before I was born so I don’t have a memory of it at all nor do I recall hearing anything about it until previews of this movie started showing. For most of the world, it was merely a spectacle, but for Billy Jean King, it was dead serious. It was about pride and position and being taken seriously in the world of tennis and general misogyny. That was 1973. Very little has changed. Women still have to fight for equal pay in the sports arena even when they draw larger crowds, bring in more revenue, and outperform the men’s teams.

The Battle of the Sexes tennis match is more of an epilogue to the movie than the main attraction. The meat of this movie focuses on Billy Jean King’s (Emma Stone) fight for equality in tennis and being a complete bad-ass while doing so. Whereas most people would simply cave to demands if it meant the very real and likely loss of your career, King and the rest of the women players walked away from the professional tennis league they were a part of to start their own women’s league after a protest over equal pay. What strength these women had! The two other tangential stories that are important to this movie are King’s discovery of her own sexuality, which appeared to be handled beautifully in real life by all parties involved, and the showmanship and gross misogyny of Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). Bobby Riggs was what you’d call a character. A compulsive schemer and gambler, a theatrical sideshow and provocateur, you never quite get the feel for who the real Bobby Riggs was. Perhaps he didn’t even know himself. Despite being all that and an all around prick a lot of the time, he comes off as very lovable.

This movie is filled with great acting, not just by the two stars, Stone and Carell, but also Sarah Silverman as Gladys Heldman who was a character all unto herself and Natalie Morales as Rosie Casals who was also quite instrumental in paving the way for women’s tennis, though the movie doesn’t quite get into that story. The writing is also excellent and the dialogue is crisp and witty.

This is one of those movies that I would recommend everyone see. Even if you know and lived through the tennis match, there was so much happening behind the scenes that you probably don’t know about but should. It helps that it is a legitimately good movie. Though the Battle of the Sexes is a bit of a misnomer. It wasn’t then, nor does it continue to be today a battle between men and women, but a battle between dominance and equality. I like to think that equality will someday win through, but man has it been a long, though slough.