The Bronze – Movie Review

Hope is a local celebrity in Amherst, Ohio. She won the bronze medal in the Summer Olympics and after a career ending accident, Hope continues to live off her fame as long as she can.

Release Date: March 18, 2016
Writer: Melissa Rauch, Winston Rauch
Director: Bryan Buckley
Cast: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Haley Lu Richardson, Sebastian Stan, Thomas Middleditch

The Bronze is a tough tale to tell, especially when the main character is so unlikable at the beginning of the movie. It also doesn’t help that she’s in every scene in the movie too. Writers Melissa and Winston Rauch are up for the task. The path of the film is easy, how to make an unlikable character likable in a way that feels real and is not heavy on the schmaltz.

Melissa Rausch does an excellent job fleshing out the character of Hope. She starts as a self-centered, manipulative person, who feels entitled from the small town that continues to perpetuate her fame. Hope lies, cheats and steals to get whatever she wants. The only person, who loves her is her father (Gary Cole), who believe that he is the reason Hope is the way she is.

Hope’s comfortable lifestyle is close to an end. Her father does not have the money to support her lifestyle. Hope has no motivation to grow-up both emotionally and mentally. Soon, the other shoe is about to drop, when a promising new gymnastics star is about to eclipse Hope’s Olympic accomplishments. This gymnast is Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson) and she is being trained by Hope’s former coach, Coach Pavleck (Christine Abrahamson).

Things change when Coach Pavleck commits suicide and sends her suicide note to Hope. The note states that Hope will receive $500,000, if she can take over the training of Maggie and, win or lose, complete her training.

There are many moments throughout The Bronze that I doubted Hope could change in a way that did not seem forced or cheeseball. The Bronze manages to pull through. Hope never loses her gruff, self-absorbed personality, but she does manages to change in small incremental moments. Haley Lu Richardson is perfect at the naïve and overly peppy student and even the quiet owner of the gym, Ben (Thomas Middleditch), comes off at the end as the strong hero to Hope.

If there is one complaint is that The Bronze is a solid story of redemption for Hope. Young girls will love the gymnastics angle and endear themselves to both Hope and her student, Maggie. The problem is the raunchy language littered throughout the movie and an incredibly hot and funny sex scene gave The Bronze a deserved R-rating. I don’t mean to be a prude but some scenes and language could have been toned down for a PG-13 rating and open the film to a broader audience.

The Bronze is a good story with funny moments. Melissa Rauch’s portrayal of Hope’s change throughout the film is perfect and the final moments will leave you feeling a little emotional.

10 Cloverfield Lane – Movie Review

It’s not a sequel nor is it a reboot. In 2010, J.J. Abrams produced the movie, Cloverfield. It was about an alien attack on America. Is it possible that his new movie 10 Cloverfield Lane is attached somehow to the original? 10 Cloverfield Lane is a mystery, thriller story.

Release Date: March 11, 2016
Writer: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.

10 Cloverfield Lane is one of those movies that is best no talked (or written) about in depth. The less you know that better. The movie works best as a mysterious story that gets better as it unfolds. At the same time, it reduces its repeat value.

After getting into an accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakens in an underground bomb shelter. Her wounds have been bandaged by the mysterious Norman (John Goodman). Also in the bunker is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), Norman’s neighbor who helped build the bunker. Michelle is told that the earth has come under an attack and condition above ground are toxic.

The film is about the mysterious circumstances. Is Norman telling the truth about the earth? Is he really just trying to be a hospitable host? Who is Emmett and why does he trust Norman?

The film is essentially told from Michelle’s point of view. She knows nothing of her situation and her predicament. Information is slowly revealed and the pieces of the puzzle are assembled at the right time and the right pace. What makes this a good thriller is that you are along for the ride from beginning to end and you are on the edge of your seat.

John Goodman is fantastic as Norman. You never really trust him, but he somehow manages to come off as authentic. John Gallagher Jr. brings the just needed levity in an incredibly tense situation. It will keep you guessing from beginning to end. As the heroine, Michelle, Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays the average person and you, as the viewer, easily slip into her role. You can’t help but wonder what you would do next and who do you really trust. Then to finally ask yourself, what the hell is going on.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a mystery, thriller from writers Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, and Damien Chazelle. Director Dan Trachtenberg sets the right tone and pacing to keep the mystery alive considering most of the movie takes placed in a small confined space.

Zootopia – Movie Review

In the long tradition of Disney animated features, a question is answered that overthinking fans have been asking, how did animals learn to talk and why do they wear clothes.

Release Date: March 4, 2016
Writer: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Jenny Slate, Idris Elba

The most remarkable thing about Zootopia is that it appeals to both boys and girls. No princesses. No robots in space. One would think that a world of animals that act like humans would appeal mostly to boys, but then Zootopia writers Jared Bush and Phil Johnston pulled the genius move and made the main character a girl.

Disney also has a tradition of movies that star animals acting in human roles. Robin Hood being the most notable example. Zootopia manages to explain how and why these animals speak a common language, walk on hind legs and dress in clothes. Which brings us to the world of Zootopia, the world where animals who are predators and prey are able to co-exist in one world.

The world of Zootopia is not by any means a utopia. There are problems. Zootopia addresses these problems in a brilliant way. Disney is using the story of animals acting as humans to teach children about tolerance and diversity.

Zootopia is the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), who as a rabbit wants to grow up and become a police officer. The problem is the police force is completely staffed naturally by predators. Somehow predators are a natural fit for the role due to their strength, speed and cunning. Against animal common sense, Judy hears from everyone there is no place for a meek rabbit on the police force.

Thanks to Zootopia forward thinking, Judy proves that she has what it takes to be a police officer. Judy finds that gaining the respect of her predator co-workers and the public is not going to be an easy task. She has to work hard to prove she belongs on the force.

In Zootopia, there is an epidemic of predators reverting back to their natural predator-state. For example, a tiger devolving into a feral tiger and hunting its natural prey. The police are called to solve the mystery. Of course, Judy has ideas and theories about what is happening, but no one takes her seriously. In comes the sly con-fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), who comes to Judy’s help but being a fox, no one can seem to trust him.

As with any good Disney film, it is littered with fun cameos and supporting roles. Idris Elba played the police captain Bogo. J.K. Simmons is Mayor Lionheart and his assistant Mayor Bellwether is voiced perfectly by Jenny Slate. A little Easter egg in the film is that Alan Tudyk plays the same character in this film that he does in Frozen, Duke Weaselton. He’s actually a weasel in this one.

Zootopia presents the ideas of cultural diversity head on. Tigers are ferocious creatures, because they are tigers. Rabbits are farmers, because they are rabbits. Bears are dangerous because they are bears. The story my daughter learned is she can be whatever she wants, but she has to want it bad enough and work hard to get it.

Disney has finally reached the level of Pixar in the world of storytelling and most importantly…merchandising. Zootopia is great fun for the whole family and merits repeat viewings.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – Movie Review

Based on the book by Kim Barker, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Tina Fey plays the role of war correspondent Kim Baker. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is less about Barker’s actual story of a network correspondent in a hostile environment but a case study in the addiction correspondents have to risk their lives for the story.

Release Date: March 4, 2016
Writer: Robert Carlock
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cast: Tina Fey, Martin Freeman, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton

One thing you should know before going watching Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is that this is not a comedy. Sure there are comedic moments, but the family is a serious look at a woman, who knows she’s on the tail end of her television journalism career, unless she can make something happen. That something is going to Afghanistan and covering the involvement of the United States government. The challenge is to bring back stories that can complete with the war in Iraq.

At best, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is an interesting film. Tiny Fey plays Kim Baker as a strong woman, who is a fish out of water in a foreign land. Baker is accompanied by her cameraman Brian (Nicholas Braun) and her interpreter Fahim Ahmadzi (Christopher Abbott).

Her first assignment is as an embedded reporter with General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton) and a squad of soldiers on maneuvers. As luck would have it, they are ambushed and Kim puts her life endanger by putting herself in harm’s way and filming the attack on a hostile truck.

Adrenaline still rushing, we are introduced to the one spot where all the war correspondents unwind and it’s the local bar. Think on-campus college pub but instead of uninhibited college students, you have uninhibited middle-aged adults. It is here that Kim meets British-reporter Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) and learns that in the middle of nowhere every woman is hot. In the U.S. Baker may be a 6, but in the Middle East, she’s a ten.

Baker also meets another British Reporter, Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman). To Baker, MacKelpie comes off as more arrogant that street smart and this flirtatious rivalry soon turns into full blown sex without consequences.

The movie continues to follow Baker as she places herself in one dangerous situation after the other and then releasing the pent up aggression with MacKelpie. This danger includes becoming involved with a local official, Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina) and escalates to inserting herself into a street demonstration resulting in near disaster. As the highs increase, the interest in her stories decreases to the point that her network is not broadcasting her stories.

Adventures aside, the bright spot of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot are the relationships that Baker builds with the locals and especially her interpreter, Fahim. There comes a point where Bakers hunt for danger forces Fahim to choose between friendship and his own personal safety.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is an interesting look at what is happening in the Middle East. We get a glimpse into what real people think of Americans and their presence in their country. We also see that this is a new kind of war. Unlike World War II or Vietnam, we don’t know who the enemy is exactly as they co-mingle with the innocent.

If anything, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is Tina Fey exercising her acting skills. She plays a woman who inadvertently finds the exhilaration of danger and soon comes face-to-face with the reality of that danger not only in her life, but in the lives of her friends.