Tag Archives: Dan Stevens

“Marshall”

LOUISA: 2.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

The story of Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall’s early career is the focus of “Marshall,” a conventional biopic that’s mixed with a straightforward court procedural about a 1941 rape trial. The sensational case pitted Connecticut socialite Ellie Strubing (Kate Hudson) against her black chauffeur Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown).

The driver was represented by Marshall (Chadwick Boseman), a young NAACP attorney who later became a monumental figure in the civil rights era. During the trial, Marshall partnered with inexperienced Jewish lawyer Samuel Friedman (Josh Gad) and the pair faced bigotry from their opposing counsel (Dan Stevens) as well as disgust from the general public.

Boseman and Gad are a likeable enough pair, playing off each other like a cinematic odd couple, yet their ultimately forgettable performances rival Reginald Hudlin‘s uninspired direction. This is a traditional, by-the-numbers story that feels more like a stage play than a film; a movie that seems slightly undeserving of a theatrical release.

Not much about this project is exciting or compelling, but the best parts come when a couple of strong scenes convey what a naturally talented lawyer Marshall was, including an effective jury selection bit where the young lawyer’s ability to read people comes as a second nature. Although based on a true legal case, it doesn’t provide the most compelling introduction to Marshall (and the abrupt, cheerful conclusion is off-putting). The story only glosses over the surface of this man’s amazing life and his legal contributions to our country, which is briefly summed up in an all too tidy, tacked-on ending.

The elephant in the room here is the wildly inappropriate music choices and original score. It’s so out of place that it continuously detracts from the story. It starts with the odd opening with period swing music accompanying grim themes, and it goes downhill from there with repeatedly cheerful tunes or upbeat harmonies paired with heavy subject matter like scenes of rape and bigotry. The musical cues tell the audience to feel the exact opposite way of how they should, and I see no artistic reason for it. Thankfully the music makes much more sense in the second half of the film, where we get a deliberate piano score.

Comparisons to our current political climate regarding race relations are inevitable, and the film touches on how African-Americans have been disenfranchised by our legal system for decades. Still, it’s a bit of a joy to see a black history movie that’s not about the horrors of slavery and one where the stereotypical “white savior” doesn’t swoop in to save the day. Heck, it’s enjoyable if solely for the chance to see the legal system not fail a black man. Instead, the film is empowering and positive, with beautiful quotes like “the only way to get through a bigot’s door is to break it down.” I didn’t love the movie, but I certainly respect that message.

“Colossal”

LOUISA: 3.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

In one of the most original indie sci-fi films in recent memory, “Colossal” is a genre bending exercise in sheer creativity and inventiveness. This exquisitely strange and cleverly original film is part romance, part monster movie, part revenge thriller, and is all but guaranteed to confuse and frustrate anyone who buys a ticket thinking they are going to see a quirky comedy (they’re not).

The movie tells the spectacularly weird story of unemployed, often hungover party girl Gloria (Anne Hathaway) who, after being dumped by her live-in boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), is forced to move back to her hometown in upstate New York. She hangs out and pounds beers with her childhood frenemy Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) and his group of loser pals (Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell). When a giant monster suddenly appears in South Korea, Gloria finds herself connected to the deadly attacks by the kaiju. The insignificance of her existence suddenly becomes relevant when she’s forced to grow up (and rise up) to save the people of Seoul — as well as herself.

This film is a peculiar psychodrama of sorts, reveling in the harsh reality of self-destructive behavior and finally offering its flawed characters a chance for redemption. This is a multi-layered story with some especially dark themes of alcoholism, toxic relationships, and mental abuse, including an unsettling and slightly off-putting anti-feminist tone. The story starts out a bit playful and fun, but then turns into an exceedingly creepy and disturbing tale. Sudeikis shows great range by going through a character transformation from a totally chill bar owner into an unstable, controlling sociopath. It’s unpleasant to watch because you’ll come to realize that none of the characters are particularly likeable in the first place.

“Colossal” suffers from two considerable flaws that I find impossible to overlook. One, the film has some serious pacing issues. It’s slow to start and takes nearly half an hour before it gains footing and things start to pick up. Two, writer / director Nacho Vigalondo tries so desperately to explain every little thing in the story by attempting to wrap up the multitude of plot lines, but he ends up creating even more gaping plot holes in his wake. This would be a much stronger movie if not so many explanations were given. To this end, half of the film is cleverly executed but the other half nearly sinks the entire project.

And that’s where the movie really stumbles: in the details. There are lots of important particulars and specifics that go unanswered, and it’s such a big deal that you simply can’t ignore it. Even the eventual reveal as to the “why?” of Gloria’s connection to the monster doesn’t make much logical sense, and it’s more than a little dumb (and a bit lazy) in terms of screenwriting.

Still, this is one clever and original movie that is worth seeing. Do yourself a favor and don’t read any reviews or watch any previews before you see it. I’ve tried to make this write-up spoiler free because the true joy of this one is in the discovery.

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“Beauty and the Beast”

LOUISA: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I understand that it’s next to impossible to avoid letting your nostalgia for the original 1991 animated Disney film “Beauty and the Beast” fool you into thinking this live action remake is fantastic. I get it. It is arguably one of the greatest animated films of all time with iconic characters, scenes and songs. So iconic, in fact, that I wish the Disney machine would’ve just left it well enough alone. This nearly shot-by-shot retelling may have its moments, but they are few and far between. The film amounts to little more than a mediocre cash grab that putters along, fueled by the good will from its audience.

The film is surprisingly poorly directed by Bill Condon. The big CGI animated scenes that should be true show stoppers (like the classic “Be Our Guest” dinner performance) are choppily edited and packed with so much visual noise that they are ugly and at times ungainly. The entire project reeks of desperation as everything in the movie looks and feels overdressed and hollow, from the choreography to the mediocre costumes. The animated Beast (Dan Stevens) looks fake and terrible in the way he talks and moves, and don’t get me started on the ghastly singing all around.

The cast is so perfect (I’ve been excited for months after the accomplished list of actors was announced) and I can’t believe they actually blew it. Something feels completely “off” about many of the performances here, especially from Kevin Kline (Maurice), Josh Gad (Lefou), and at times, Emma Watson (Belle). They look uncomfortable and confused, awkwardly delivering lines and sometimes even changing acting styles throughout the film. Watson and Stevens lack even an ounce of chemistry, which sorely hurts the entire project.

There’s the typical overacting from voice talent Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts) and Stanley Tucci (Maestro Cadenza), and a really bad vocal turn from Ewan McGregor as everyone’s favorite candelabra, Lumiere. It’s not all rotten, thanks to Ian McKellen as Cogsworth the clock (he turns in an inspired voice performance) and a very funny, boisterous, and cartoonish Luke Evans who gives Gaston his due.

The film exhibits such loyalty to the source material that it often reeks of desperation in its blind insistence to mimic the original. Scenes are set up shot-by-shot and reenacted, and the love story now feels a bit dated for today’s sensibilities. With the new Disney trend of writing tough, I-don’t-need-a-man strong female characters (“Frozen,” “Moana“), this movie feels like someone is rewinding the time clock back to the early 90s, regressing to what now feels like an old-timey attitude towards men (those filthy beasts!) and women (if I stay long enough, maybe I’ll learn to love him!).

The runtime is over two hours and there is just far too much going on in this overstuffed, bloated, and disappointing film. It may remain true to the source material, but that alone doesn’t make it a good movie.