Tag Archives: Kate Hudson

“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.

“Deepwater Horizon”

LOUISA:  2 STARS  MATT: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

One of the world’s largest man-made disasters was the explosion of an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. This true incident is dramatized in the loud and garden-variety “Deepwater Horizon,” a movie that seems determined to simply show us the ‘how’ of the tragedy instead of exploring the ‘why.’ Shouldn’t we all be outraged that something like this happened in the first place?

Mark Wahlberg plays our roughneck hero Mike, a man portrayed as a hunky savior who literally throws coworkers off a flaming rig. Wahlberg is believable in roles like this because he has an everyman quality that most can relate to. The casting is absolutely perfect and the supporting actors are all quite effective. There’s Kurt Russell as gruff senior supervisor Mr. Jimmy, Gina Rodriguez as rig operator Andrea, John Malkovich as a clueless BP well site leader (with an over-the-top and mildly amusing Cajun accent), and Kate Hudson (who, sadly, is given little to do as Mike’s worried wife Felicia).

The filmmakers try to give a bit of background on these characters and show us their personalities, but they all still come across as paper thin. Even when the movie ended and after sharing two hours with them, I didn’t feel much emotional connection. Not to sound heartless to those who suffered due to this tragedy, but these folks deserved more onscreen detail.

The film both explains too much yet doesn’t explain enough of the engineering background of how an oil rig works and why drilling is so dangerous. Early on, there are multiple attempts to clearly illustrate the engineering (even using props like a Coke can). Eventually that devolves into a poor man’s ‘let’s blame the Big Oil suits‘ mantra and does nothing but simplify the blame. It feels like director Peter Berg and screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand simply threw up their hands halfway through their science lesson.

The realistic action sequences aren’t very effective because it’s unclear what is happening in relation to the rig’s floorplan, and the special effects are nothing more than acceptable. The overuse of shaky cam, which quickly made me regret sitting on the third row in the theater, was obnoxious in every way imaginable. There are plenty of eye-rolling moments like the Michael Bay-esque shots of tattered American flags flying high while huge, fiery explosions set the backdrop (groan). Oh, and since these are just blue collar good ol’ boys, there’s also the annoying obligatory group prayer scene that is always front and center in movies like this (see “The Finest Hours“).

This movie had a huge $150 million plus budget, but it looks like a commonplace rip-off of other disaster movies like “The Towering Inferno.” I wanted to know more about the environmental impact of the incident, the implications of offshore drilling, the dangers of the lack of safety regulations, and the human costs of corporate greed. Unfortunately, the film misses many opportunities to address these topics, probably due to studio fears of “let’s not make this too smart.” It’s more of a straight up action movie, showing us dramatic explosions, furiously spewing oil geysers, gruesome broken bones, feet and heads bloodied with massive shards of glass, and plenty of gigantic fireballs.

MATT SAYS:

“Deepwater Horizon” is an excellent example of how a film with a decent script and good actors can be completely ruined by terrible direction.

Director Peter Berg (“Battleship,” “The Kingdom”) apparently LOVES shaky cam (that affectation where the camera shakes incessantly throughout action-packed sequences to convey a sense of urgency and disorientation). Once the well backs up and explodes on the rig, the camera never stops moving violently back and forth. It’s as though the camera was placed on top of a giant spring, which is itself on rollers, mounted on top of a seesaw that is riding out an earthquake in the middle of a hurricane. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but not very much. Berg’s direction is so frenetic that he makes Paul Greengrass (he of the “Bourne” travesties, who practically wrote the book on shaky-cam work) look like Martin Scorsese.

In the disaster film like this one, it’s important for the audience to understand to have a good sense of spatial relationships so that they can appreciate what is actually happening to the characters. In “The Poseidon Adventure”, for example, you are always able to tell where the actors are on the overturned cruise ship and where they must go next to escape to safety. In “San Andreas”, I knew where the giant fault lines and waves were, and could tell where Dwayne Johnson needed to go to get his family to safety. This sense of space is completely lost in “Deepwater Horizon” once disaster strikes; once the action starts it becomes almost impossible to tell what is happening where.

To illustrate this point: there is one scene that occurs about 10 or 15 minutes after the well backs up that there is apparently a crane somewhere that is threatening to topple over. When it does, it could kill a number of crew members directly in its path. We know this not because we can see it on the screen; we know this because the dialogue tells us that’s what’s happening. Some guy has to go and try to prevent the crane from falling, and when he does so, you have no idea where it is he’s going and what it is he’s doing to try to stop the crash. This sort of thing happens over and over, to where it becomes completely frustrating to even try to watch.

To me that’s the greatest measure of what constitutes terrible direction: if it becomes so difficult for the audience to follow the action that they give up even trying to do so, you have utterly failed as a director.

What is so surprising and disappointing about this disaster of a disaster film is that the story is pretty darned good. Things moved along quickly, and the cast (Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, and John Malkovich among others) did good work creating sympathetic characters that put a human face on the tragedy. In the hands of a more capable director, this movie could have been good.

If there’s any justice in the world, “Deepwater Horizon” should sound the death knell of shaky cam and convince Hollywood filmmakers once and for all that the technique should be used (if at all) only sparingly. It’s not exciting. It’s not compelling. And it’s not good craft.

“Mother’s Day”

LOUISA: HALF STAR    MATT: 1 STAR


LOUISA SAYS:

Do you really need to read a review of “Mother’s Day,” the latest holiday-centric, career killer ensemble film? Don’t we all just expect these movies to be awful since the bar is already set super low? In what’s billed as a supposed ‘celebration of mothers everywhere,’ this stinker of a movie is not even worthy of a rental. In fact, if you take your mom to see this junk it’s more like an insult than a ‘celebration.’

This dud is a poor excuse for a ‘comedy.’ It’s not funny, it’s not heartwarming, it’s not touching, it’s just plain bad. The movie feels like it was made in a by-the-book sitcom factory, churned out on an assembly line for the low IQ set. It’s uninspired, vapid, and has zero reason to exist. This is a stupid movie made to pander to stupid people. Even the storyline setups, all designed to ensure the characters’ lives eventually intersect, are overly clichéd.

Jennifer Aniston and Timothy Olyphant play a friendly divorced couple with two sons (and he with a new twentysomething wife), whose paths cross with gym owner and widower Jason Sudeikis (who has — wait for it– two GIRLS! Wow, I wonder where this story is going?!??).

The always unpleasant Julia Roberts, wearing a harshly styled redhead wig, is a popular Home Shopping Network saleswoman. A big deal is made of the fact that she’s a childless career woman. Jump to another dopey storyline about bar waitress Kristin (Britt Robertson) and her wannabe comedian boyfriend Zack (Jack Whitehall), new parents with a baby girl. Kristin mentions that she was adopted and never knew her birth mother. What’s that you say? Is she planning to track down her birth mom? How did you know?! Bet you can guess who her mom is too!

The storyline that takes the cake centers around Jesse (Kate Hudson) and Gabi (Sarah Chalke), two sisters who moved from Texas to Atlanta to escape their bigoted parents Flo and Earl (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine). Jesse is married to an Indian man (Aasif Mandvi) and has a son while Gabi is gay and a married mom herself. An unexpected visit from their rv-loving mom and dad causes all hell to break loose. Martindale and Pine play the parents with a bizarrely cartoonish, over-the-top delivery style. They talk like simpletons and at times it feels like they are yelling their lines so the 70 year old racist homophobe in the back row of the theater can hear them clearly. Their dialogue is particularly antiquated and pointless; their story borderline offensive.

Loni Love shows up as a wise-cracking African American friend — it’s like you could practically hear the film’s producers worrying that they needed to cast a black character because wait a minute, this story is set in Atlanta! There are a few other cameos from Hector ElizondoJennifer Garner and Jon Lovitz (I feel like they deserve to be mentioned so they can be publicly shamed for participating in this crap). No doubt this is a talented cast, but it’s also a cast that gives the impression that they are simply giving up on their careers. Were the actors that hard up for a film role that they agreed to be in this rubbish? It appears so.

The characters repeatedly mention the city of Atlanta for no reason whatsoever, leading me to believe the producers must’ve had an agreement where they got paid whenever Georgia was mentioned in the movie. It started to get funny after the fourth or fifth mention (if you are forced to go to see this movie you can play a game and keep a running count of the mentions)!

Ensemble holiday movies can be mildly amusing (“New Year’s Eve“) or even first-class instant classics (“Love Actually“), but taking on Mother’s Day feels like a desperate money grab of the worst kind. I wasted nearly 2 hours of my life watching this film but at least my sacrifice can do some good in the world. If I can keep just one person from seeing this movie, my work is done. If you love your mom, give her a call, send her a card, take her to lunch. Don’t take her to this movie.

MATT SAYS:

“Mother’s Day” is more fun than watching paint dry, but only slightly. And only because of how unintentionally terrible and ridiculous it is.

Like the holiday-themed movies “New Year’s Eve” and “Valentine’s Day” before it, “Mother’s Day” is another movie that follows a number of different characters in the days and hours leading up to the big day. And like those movies, the stories in “Mother’s Day” eventually intersect with one another in eye-rollingly predictable ways. In choosing a holiday as a framing device for an overlapping narrative revolving around a variety of different characters, all of these films attempt to imitate the success of “Love Actually,” but do so poorly.  And “Mother’s Day” is by the worst one yet.

The movie isn’t populated with characters so much as caricatures. The film either looks through rose-colored lenses at a highly idealized version of life, or creates highly contrived conflicts that ring so falsely in our ears. The people populating “Mother’s Day” don’t resemble anyone we know, and consequently there is zero emotional resonance. The plot developments are so obvious that every “surprise” is anything but, and you find yourself waiting for each of your internal predictions about these characters to come true. It’s a paint-by-numbers script that wasn’t so much written as assembled.

In fact, the only thing I really enjoyed about this movie was laughing at it (and not with it). If it wasn’t the beating-you-over-the-head product placement, it was the writing, or the “record scratch” laugh cues for the audience, or the completely inauthentic and unbelievably false reactions background actors and sometimes even the principal cast. It was universally bad.

I do have to say, however, that this movie featured one of the most unintentionally funny secondary characters of any film in recent memory, and this guy single-handedly kept me from walking out. The man who played Earl, the dad of Kate Hudson’s character (Robert Pine) was ridiculously hilarious. To call his performance a caricature is to understate it. If Gabby Hayes, Yosemite Sam, and Foghorn Leghorn had a bastard love child together, he would sound something like Earl. If any one character from any one film ever deserved a supercut of all of his screen time, it’s Earl.