Movie Review – “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (2017)

 

 

I’m not entirely sure if I should consider “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” as being nostalgic or not. While it is a sequel to the 1995 film with Robin Williams, outside of a few minor references here and there, it doesn’t really feel like a sequel since it takes everything in a vastly different direction. The original film brought the game to the real world and treated its massive epic scale as if it had no consequences. The new film is less about the game and more about trying to turn make a video game story into a movie plot.

Strangely enough, I remember watching “Jumanji” plenty of times when I was a kid, but never really liking it. The film was just something that could be put on in the background and was sometimes enjoyable because of Robin Williams, but that was about it. So even if you could consider this movie nostalgic, it didn’t work on me at all. “Welcome to the Jungle” did not make me pin for the old movie, nor did it harken back to my childhood, because both films don’t feel connected at all.

“Welcome to the Jungle” picks up right where the first “Jumanji” left off, as someone discovers the haunted board game on the beach. The father gives the game to his son Alex, but is turned off by it being a board game and not a video game. But it turns out Jumanji is a vengeful and all-knowing piece of wood and magically turns itself into a video game cartridge that sucks Alex inside the game.

Cut to present day when four vastly different teenagers are sent to detention and find the Jumanji video game. Not knowing what awaits them, they all select their avatars and get sucked inside as well, turning into their selected characters, including the muscle-head Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), the tiny yet intelligent Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), the cartographer Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black) and the commando dance fighter Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). Together, these four have to overcome their differences and personal problems to make it out of the video game before they lose their three lives and get a game over.

 

 

The best part of this movie is watching actors like Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black act like teenagers in their own bodies, always astounded at the things they can or cannot do. In the real world, Dwayne Johnson’s player is a guy afraid of everything, always letting that fear consume him. So it’s pretty good seeing someone the size of the Rock always acting like the tiniest animal is a tiger ready to pounce. But the best one of these is Jack Black, whose player is a self-centered teenage girl. Not only is it hilarious to see Jack Black acting like a girl who loves her body, but this leads to some of the best jokes when she has to learn to go to the bathroom as a man. She also goes through the most personal growth, learning that life shouldn’t just be about looking beautiful and her phone, so that’s a big plus as well.

Other than that, “Welcome to the Jungle” is all about mocking and adapting to the many tropes of video games. From in-game cut scenes, to extra lives, to character attributes and weaknesses, to everything being broken up into separate missions and the non-playable characters only having a few dialogue options, this movie goes all in on video games. Though I do find this odd, considering that the Jumanji cartridge was untouched since 1995 when the most complex games were “Super Mario 64” and “Street Fighter II,” yet this game has as many intricate parts and choices as games like “Skyrim” and “Grand Theft Auto V.”

 

 

And if that last paragraph scared you off with all my video game lingo, then just know that “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” certainly isn’t for you.

In any case, this film is a fine piece of dumb mindless action with some decent comedy mixed in. It really isn’t anything special, but I don’t regret seeing it. The film looks nice with its jungle backdrop and makes you feel like you’re going along on this video game adventure. The character development for these teens feels natural and the whole body swap angle is used well throughout the film, especially with the teenage girl being in the body of Jack Black. This was a fun ride, but probably not one I’ll be checking out again any time soon.

Final Grade: C+

 

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Movie Review – “Lord of the Flies” (1963)

 

 

There’s a fine line when it comes to watching the savagery of man unfold before your eyes. Films that dance this line are some of the best tales of morality and what it means to be a human and not an animal. But films that cross this line are the ones that over stay their welcome and just become grotesque tales that are more depressing and tiresome as they go on. Peter Brook’s 1963 “Lord of the Flies” crosses that line.

That’s not to say “Lord of the Flies” is a bad film, but that it left a bad taste in my mouth and not for the reasons it was supposed to. The film chronicles the tale of three dozen or so little boys surviving a plane crash in the Pacific and being stranded on a deserted island with no adult supervision. While the boys start out civilized enough and try to come up with rules so they can survive, they quickly devolve into a tribe-mentality who act more like animals than humans. The film is extremely minimalistic and has an almost-documentary style to its filmmaking, like we’re watching a real tribe of all little boys.

 

 

The main reason I feel “Lord of the Flies” doesn’t work as well as it could is because of these actors and their uninvested performances. Nobody here feels truly genuine, especially the leader of the group Ralph (James Aubrey), who just looks bored throughout most of the film. Most of the kids look like they don’t know what they’re doing or have any direction to go.

Director Peter Brook was known as an improvisational filmmaker, simply putting the camera in front of the actors and seeing what they came up with. This style often has the benefit of making everything feel more authentic, but only works if the actors can roll with the punches, which these little kids cannot. It’s like watching an episode of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” being performed by people who have never done improv in their lives. While they are children and don’t have as much experience with acting, their performances still bring down this movie.

“Lord of the Flies” is a tale about how we all have this savage instinct inside of us. That if we remove the morals of society, we’re all eventually resort to cruel, beastial acts to survive. The film does a fine job of showing this, especially since this is done using little kids, but that same strength is also a weakness. Moments like Ralph standing up to the hunters has about as much menace as an episode of “Rugrats,” so any moments of savagery just feel out of place for these uncaring children.

In other words, while “Lord of the Flies” has a great message, the execution of said-message leaves a lot to be desired.

Final Grade: C+

 

Movie Review – “The Shape of Water” (2017)

 

 

One of the reasons I adore cinema so much is because filmmakers can use it as a platform to say anything they want about the world. Whether they want to talk about how the world needs journalism in “The Post,” make a statement about growing up in a Post-9/11 world in “Lady Bird,” or something as simple and relatable as growing out of adolescence and discovering yourself in “Call Me by Your Name,” film can be a gateway into our society as much as it is into our hearts and souls. But with all of these profound statements and new perspectives on life, we so often forget just how beautiful and joyous film can be at its most basic and simple level.

Sometimes you don’t need to remind the audience of the world we live in or our dilemmas. There are times when the most powerful films are the ones that remind us that there is magic and wonders in this world, and we’re watching one of those right now.

For this reason, I have no problem saying that Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” is not only the best film of the year, but one of the greatest fantasies of all time. This is a film built on passion and raw unbridled love for movies in its purest form. Every shot of this film is gorgeous, perfectly thought-out to the point of being visual poetry. The music is phenomenal as it adds an even bigger emotional weight to the story, which is where fantasy and reality blend together flawlessly in a way that only del Toro can. Even performances that range from stellar to some of the most emotionally captivating I’ve ever seen. “The Shape of Water” is an excellent example of why we adore cinema.

The film follows Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mute who works as a janitor at a secret government lab in Baltimore. Even though she doesn’t have the most glamorous life, she still makes the most of it, living above a movie theater while spending time with her elderly neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) as they watch classic movies and television, and enjoying her conversations with co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) while trying to master the dance moves she sees on television.

But her life becomes very difference when the very controlling Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) brings in a top secret specimen into the lab that he’s brought all the way from South America. Elisa quickly finds out this specimen is alive and intelligent, and she develops a close friendship with the creature (Doug Jones) despite the watchful menacing eye of Colonel Strickland.

 

I would describe “The Shape of Water” as “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” meets “Edward Scissorhands,” with Guillermo del Toro’s unique film style for blending reality and fantasy in a fairy tale-like way. The film harkens back to a time long since passed, admiring some aspects like the simplicity of the time, without shying away from some of the harsher uglier parts of the early 1960s. While at other times, there are moments of true horror that one can only get from a monster movie, blurring the line between whether the true monster is man or creature. All the while never losing its love and passion for movies and its style.

The main reason I think “The Shape of Water” works is due to Sally Hawkins’ performance as Elisa and how she gives the most emotionally gripping and raw performance I’ve ever seen. Every scene Hawkins is in, she is acting her heart out and without ever saying a word. It feels like a silent film performance but with far more emotional weight than any silent role I can remember. There were at least three scenes that almost made me cry in this film, and it was always because of Sally Hawkins breath-taking job as showing us a woman that just wants to have her chance at happiness. Whether she’s bursting with joy, upset beyond all reason, or wallowing in despair, Hawkins gives this role everything she has.

Then again, every single performance in “The Shape of Water” is a standout. Richard Jenkins is lovable in his attempt at trying to find some sort of meaning in his old age, Octavia Spencer gives us her usual fiery attitude that I can’t help but love, even Michael Stuhlbarg plays a scientist who wants to protect the creature and he has a great duality to his character.

 

 

But the two other stand outs are Michael Shannon and Doug Jones. Shannon is ruthless, selfish and completely absorbed in his own ego that it makes his evil actions just as entertaining to watch as Hawkins’ performance. Strickland is one of the best villains I’ve seen in a long time and is the slimy glue that holds this film together. Jones plays the creature and adds a charm to the character that this story truly needed. Even under all of that makeup and latex, Jones creates something that is both imposing and surprisingly kind.

Overall, I love every second of “The Shape of Water.” It is bursting with vibrant and colorful storytelling that blends together fantasy, horror and reality in a way that leaves me speechless. The film is ruthless and gross at times, but packs just enough of an emotional punch to make those moments stand out even more. These are all some of the best performances I’ve seen all year and they make this story of love and passion in the face of a ruthless world so much more powerful than it already was. While this may not be a film for everyone, there’s no denying that “The Shape of Water” passion for filmmaking will leave an impression on most audiences as it did with me.

 

 

Final Grade: A+

 

Movie Review – “Call Me by Your Name” (2017)

 

 

I have never seen something quite like “Call Me by Your Name” before that made it hard to turn away from. While there have been plenty of coming-of-age tales and movies that depict a summer romance, “Call Me by Your Name” not only goes all-in on the lust and passion these characters feel for each other, but I’ve honestly never seen something like that done with a homosexual relationship. This might turn some people away, but for those who want to see a film give us every bit of love and desire it can muster then this film will not disappoint.

 

Set in Northern Italy in 1983, the film follows 17-year old Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet) on summer vacation with his parents out in the country. Elio’s father is a professor of archaeology and invites American graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer) to live with them for the summer and help with the professor’s work. Elio and Oliver initally butt heads due to their vastly different personalities, but eventually develop a solid friendship that very quickly becomes much more than that.

 

If there is one word that describes “Call Me by Your Name” it would be desire. While Elio is an introvert and Oliver is extreme extrovert, it is clear that both of them want more out of life and are looking for the opportunity to explore everything that it has to offer. And once they’ve had a taste of passion and lust, they can hardly contain themselves. They treat life like it’s one big firework and give it everything they have, even if it all explodes at once. These characters are curious and horny, which makes their quiet and tender scenes so fascinating to observe.

 

 

 

I have never seen romance done quite like this before in a movie, where so much heat and appetite is on display, but they’re so gentle with each other. We all have an idea of what love looks like in the movies, and “Call Me by Your Name” turns that on its head in more ways than one. From the way Elio and Oliver talk about classical music and what they want to do with the summer to the kind way they touch and hold one another, this is not what you would expect out of an Italian romance.

 

For this reason, I would certainly recommend “Call Me by Your Name.” It respects the different ways these characters show their affection for each other. It also gives us some great acting from Armie Hammer and a breakthrough role for Timothee Chalamet as a confused quiet boy who goes through one of the most difficult and painful paths a teenager can take and comes out of it a much stronger man. I respect “Call Me by Your Name” for the many chances it takes and its approach to the Hollywood romance, and this is certainly a film worth your time.

 

Final Grade: B

Movie Reviews – “The Sheik” (1921) and “Son of the Sheik” (1926)

 

 

Imagine if “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” combined with the creepy factor of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and you’d probably be left with something like these two films “The Sheik” and “Son of the Sheik.” Both of these films propelled its star Rudolph Valentino into the realm of living legends at the time, having previously been known for the tango scene in “Four Horseman.” But what Valentino had was a very strange aura of sex appeal – he wasn’t macho or damaged, but he was brave and vibrant, almost brooding, like James Dean.

Both of these films follow Valentino’s titular Sheik, an Arab leader that roams the deserts of North Africa along with his faithful soldiers, taking what they want along the way. In the first film, the Sheik kidnaps a young, independent woman from London and attempts to woo her so that he may win her heart. The second film follows the Sheik’s son (also played by Valentino, who also reprises his role as the Sheik), as he attempts to do basically the same thing his father did, only this time he tries to win the heart of a woman that wronged him.

In other words, like “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” these films’ version of romance is to have men kidnap women that they find attractive, hold them against their will, and just wait until they ultimately fall in love with their captors. Because Stockholm Syndrome is the greatest form of love!

Ultimately, I couldn’t get into either of these films, mostly because of how these romances are formed on such terrible barbaric acts, yet they try to play it off like the Sheik was acting purely out of love and that he was doing the right thing, when he most certainly was not. Valentino’s performances only make this even creepier when he has this face that looks like he’s one bad day away from becoming the Joker.

 

 

I would say that “The Sheik” is slightly better than “Son of the Sheik,” if only because of how the title cards make the desert feel far more alive than it should, with very detailed descriptions to give this pile of sand its own character. It also uses tints of different color to effectively describe the mood and tone of a scene, while “Son of the Sheik” is entirely black-and-white. While that film has double the Valentino and some better comedy, all charm and charisma he had at that point was thrown out the window when he fell in love with the woman that ruined his life for good reason.

I’m not sure if I would recommend these films to anyone outside of film buffs who want to see how Rudolph Valentino became a big star in the 1920s. They’re not bad movies, but they are uninteresting and dull movies. While the Stockholm Syndrome romances made these ones feel icky, they just feel like uninspired action set pieces of the silent era.

Final Grades:

“The Sheik” – C

“Son of the Sheik” – C-

 

Paul’s Best of 2017

 

 

And so another year of cinema has come and gone. While I didn’t see as many movies in theaters as I would have liked to see, I would still say that 2017 was a very eventful year for movies. A lot of great movies started out the year, with films like “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Get Out” and “Logan,” while having a bit of a dry summer that led into a captivating fall and winter that had more than enough movies to keep us interested.

At this time, there are still plenty of movies from 2017 I haven’t seen, including “Shape of Water,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “Phantom Thread,” “All the Money in the World” and “Darkest Hour,” just to name a few. But, in the mean time, it’s about time we went over the best (and worst) films of the past year. As always, I’ve broken down films into certain categories that determine how I’ll remember this past year.

So let’s start things off with…

 

 

Biggest Surprise – “Get Out”

I’ll be honest, when I initially saw the trailer for “Get Out,” I laughed at how serious it was taking itself, while the trailer kept repeating “Get out! Get out! Get out!” It wasn’t until I saw the stellar reviews the film was getting that I started taking it seriously. And the entire time the film was going, I was transfixed, adoring how it presented a perspective and fear that I had never seen before or since. I left that theater absolutely loving every minute of this movie and respect how intelligent and well-thoughtout it was.

 

 

Most Technologically Impressive – “Coco”

While there weren’t a whole lot of films that I was impressed with on a technical level this year, I guess the one that stands out is the animated film that felt like it invented all sorts of new colors. I swear, “Coco” used such a vibrant color scheme that I saw shades of neon I’ve never seen before, like the whole film was this never ending technicolor rainbow of varying colors. I would consider that more impressive than anything any other film has done technically this year.

 

 

Most Fun in Theaters – “Thor: Ragnarok”

The best popcorn film of the year was such a blast! If I wasn’t laughing at the witty banter or great jokes, I was enthralled by the use of norse mythology and/or colorful alien worlds. Korg might be one of my favorite characters in the entire Marvel universe now, and we finally get a Thor film that never took itself seriously, leading to some really awesome action sequences that take full advantage of their wacky scenarios. This film was this year’s definition of fun.

 

 

Sleep Inducer – “Colossal”

This goes here because I’m pretty sure I fell asleep at one point. This is a boring, hateful movie that never fully embraces its genres of comedy and giant monsters, turning into a forgettable and sometimes hard to watch film that I’d rather forget about. Save yourself the trouble with this film and just watch “Shin Godzilla” instead.

 

 

Need to See Again – “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

I really wanted to see the newest Star Wars in theaters again when I had the opportunity, but that chance hasn’t come quite yet. I feel like, in order to fully get Rian Johnson’s vision of Star Wars and what he really wanted to add to this universe, you need to see this film twice (again, very ingenious move by Disney). It felt like it added so much more to this sci-fi fairy tale that I missed on my initial viewing, so I do think a second watch is in order.

 

 

Funniest Film – “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2”

I would have said “Thor: Ragnarok” again for this one, but I don’t want to repeat myself, so instead I’ll go with the film that honestly did leave me in stitches at a couple of points. Watching “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is like watching Abbott and Costello trying to travel across the galaxy – the comedic timing between all of the main cast is pitch perfect and their witty banter is some of the best I’ve heard in any Marvel film. Plus, this film gave us the iconic line, “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” You really can’t go wrong with Yandu.

 

 

Biggest Disappointment – “Power Rangers”

As a longtime Power Rangers fan, this film was nothing but a big disappointment. While I didn’t have many expectations going into this film, I did expect to be entertained by some classic Power Ranger stuff, and we didn’t even get that. Instead it was teen angst and Krispy Kreme, never delving any deeper than a plastic spork on solid volcanic rock into what made the Power Rangers so great and memorable. The ultimate problem with this movie is that it doesn’t understand what made Power Rangers so iconic, even though it is something very simple that even the 1995 terrible movie understood. Hell, I’d take that turd of a movie from my childhood over this crapfest.

 

 

Most Forgettable – “American Made”

I completely forgot I saw this film until I looked through all of my reviews of 2017. My picks for this category are always the film that left literally no impression on me. They weren’t terrible enough to remember, nor did they have anything good to talk about to others. They just exist in the ether that means nothing to me. While “American Made” wasn’t a bad movie, it certainly wasn’t good either. Just a forgettable okay. And sometimes, that can be even worse than being a bad film.

At least I remember how bad “Power Rangers” made me feel. I can’t remember anything about “American Made” other than Tom Cruise flew a plane.

 

 

Most Overrated – “War for the Planet of the Apes”

I thought about giving this spot to “The Post,” but I think that film does deserve most of the praise it is getting. “War for the Planet of the Apes” on the other hand had very little going for it outside of its continued technological breakthroughs. The world was detailed and emmersive and the effects were stellar, but the story was almost nonexistent and the pacing was horrendous. After a certain point, I just stopped caring about everything these apes were fighting for. While this is a visual masterpiece, this film left me feeling pretty cold by the end.

 

 

Most Underrated – “Logan”

While we raved about this film when it came out, it feels like opinions on “Logan” have died down since its release. And while I gave this film an okay review back in March, my opinion on this film has only grown since then as I’ve realized that it’s not just a great comic book movie, but a wonderful conclusion to a story that was told over the course of nearly 10 movies and gave us one of the best unconventional westerns of all time. I love the bitter-sweet feeling to it all, as well as the heartache it provides as everything gets wrapped up. It may not end the way fans wanted it, but I honestly can’t imagine this ending any other way.

 

 

Best Performance – *Tie* James Franco as Tommy Wiseau in “The Disaster Artist” and Sam Rockwell as Officer Dixon in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Two men who put everything they have on the screen for us to bare witness to, letting us judge not only their characters but their very souls. Both of these men were funny, heart-breaking, thought-provoking and always the center of attention when they were on screen. James Franco disappeared in this role as Tommy Wiseau, while Sam Rockwell gave us a performance that made you similtaneously love and hate this man. So I applaud both of these actors for giving us the year’s best performances.

 

 

Best Scene – Kong’s reveal and initial helicopter fight in “Kong: Skull Island”

While there were tons of scenes that I vividly remember, the one that reintroduced us to King Kong might be my favorite. From the camera movement, to the ballet-like movement of the helicopters to the orange and yellow color palette, this scene made me fall in love with Kong all over again.

 

 

Most Anticipated Film of 2018 – “Avengers: Infinity War”

How could I not be excited for a film that’s been building up for ten years? Litreally everything that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building up since “Iron Man” is coming together in this one movie. The castlist of stars alone is enough to cover up two posters, and it’s made by the same guys that did the last two Captain American movies. I cannot wait for this film to come out and see exactly how the heroes will combat the greatest evil they’ve ever faced.

 

 

Worst Film – “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”

This film was infuriating and insulting on more levels than I thought an action movie could be. It’s one thing if it’s a brainless action film, but it’s another thing entirely when an action film talks down to you, makes snap judgments about the world around us, and paints us all as incompetent morons would couldn’t save ourselves even if we tried. This film made me want to throw up, and made me hate Elton John! How dare you?!

Now before we get to my top five films of 2017, there’s still one question I always like to ask at the end of every year – Was this past year a good one for movies?

My typical criteria for defining what makes a “good year for movies” is the number of stellar or outstanding movies. Ones that weren’t just great entertainment, but ones that I’ll remember fondly years from now, long passed their initial run in theaters. A good year typically has at least three or four of these types of films, while a great year has five or more. Last year was a pretty good year, with films like “La La Land,” “Arrival,” “Moonlight” and “Shin Godzilla,” though not nearly as good as 2015 with an amazing ten wonderful movies.

But this year? I would say 2017 was a great year. As you’re about to find out, I would say there are at least seven or eight movies that are amazing and truly worth everyone’s time. And this is without seeing movies like “Shape of Water” or “Call Me By Your Name.” It was a year of movies that I felt told honest yet extremely human stories, about people who risked everything they had ever believed in, and offered us their flawed souls. Even blockbusters like “Wonder Woman” and “The Lego Batman Movie” did this exceptionally well.

Which brings us into my picks for the five best films of the year. This proved to be difficult for some of these picks, though I didn’t have a problem picking numbers one and two – they were, in my opinion, clearly the best films of the year.

Top Five Films of 2017 –

 

 

5. “The Disaster Artist”

This is not only the best movie about movies since “Ed Wood,” but it feels like a love letter to one of the most bizarre tales in all of Hollywood. It has one of the best performances of the year from James Franco that transcends the typical Tommy Wiseau impression that everyone has these days and a great sense of humor that never lets up. The ending sequence is the reason we go to the movies, offering a visual affection for one of the best worst films ever made.

 

 

4. “Lady Bird”

The best coming-of-age tale of the year, and one of the most relatable tales since “Boyhood,” “Lady Bird” feels like an entire generation wrapped up in one picture, with all of their dreams, fears, insecurities and style all on full display. With some of the best authentic writing that comes across as both humorous and heartwarming, I have no problem saying this is the film I respect the most in 2017.

 

 

3. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

I honestly did not see this one coming. “Three Billboards” was just the right kind of different and weird that I wanted to see, while still remaining honest yet brutal. It doesn’t pull any punches while not giving the audience a clear answer about its morals and ethics, showing us characters that constantly act like villains but never feel like anything less than flawed humans. It has three wonderful performances and the pacing never lets up. It is my pick for the best indie film of the year.

 

 

2. “Blade Runner 2049”

“Blade Runner 2049” makes the number two spot almost because of cinematography alone. Without a doubt in my mind, this is the best visual spectacle of the year and probably the best since “Gravity.” The story world is just as fascinating though and is explored in beautiful and loving detail. The mystery is extremely fascinating and Ryan Gosling’s character makes for a wonderful evolution in this world where the line between android and human is getting thiner every day. While I feel it does have pacing problems, that is not nearly enough to dissaude me from saying that everyone needs to see this movie and see how science fiction is done right.

 

 

1. “Dunkirk”

Visual storytelling at its finest. “Dunkirk” feels like if Alfred Hitchcock made a big budget silent war film – it is eerie, tense, heart-pounding and makes you feel like you’re there with these men fighting for their lives against a faceless enemy, and all without hardly ever saying a word. This might be my pick for Christopher Nolan’s best film, because of how masterfully he weaves in and out of his three parallel stories to create this dynamic and very human struggle for survival.

Honorable Mentions – “Logan,” “Wonder Woman,” “Kong: Skull Island,” “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Get Out” and “It.”

 

Movie Review – “The Post” (2017)

 

 

Tom Hanks. Meryl Streep. Steven Spielberg. All of these award-winning factors coming together to make a film about the power of journalism. You have my attention.

Or at least, you had my attention for a small portion of “The Post.”

“The Post” feels like a strange hybrid of “Bridge of Spies” and “Argo” – Two good movies based on true events, but never really did much to impress me. “The Post” has a similar sense of something sinister hanging over our characters like “Bridge of Spies” did, while also having “Argo”‘s flair for dramatic timing and comedy to alleviate that tension. As a result, “The Post” leaves me the same impression as those two films – it is a solid, well-made film but plays things a little bit too safe.

The film chronicles the tale of the Pentagon Papers, a nearly 4,000 page manifesto that details exactly how poorly the American government was handling the Vietnam War and that we had remained there over five years after experts told the government that they could not win this war, sending thousands of young men to their pointless deaths. The film opens with a reporter leaking most of these papers to the New York Times, but the White House is quick enough to put an order out to stop anymore stories on the Pentagon Papers.

Eventually, the papers leak to other newspapers, in particular the Washington Post, run by newspaper heiress Katharine Graham (Streep) and editor in chief Ben Bradlee (Hanks). After the Times has been barred from printing more stories about the papers, Katharine is concerned about following suit, or else she’d be ruining her father and her husband’s family-friendly newspaper, but Ben believes in the freedom of the press and that American needs to know the truth, even if that means they all lose their jobs.

 

 

The main reason “The Post” works as well as it does is because of how the struggle in this film parallels what’s going on in the White House right now and how the government is trying to silence the media just to protect their own skin. This film is the ultimate weapon against those that throw around the term “fake news” like it’s an actual term and not just a way to bully others. It shows that journalism is the first and best guardian for the public, not the officials. Newspapers were created so that governments wouldn’t become too corrupt with their own power, or at the very least warn the people that the government has become too powerful. Unbiased, truthful, fair – journalism is the eyes and ears into a world we’d rather not see, but need to know about.

In that regard, “The Post” is refreshing by showing modern-day audiences the full power of the First Amendment and those who are not afraid of being silenced just because they said something that embarrasses the President. The ending to the film is worth the price of admission alone, for reestablishing that journalism is here for the governed, not the governing.

 

 

Outside of that though, this is a pretty-straight forward honest portrayal of those who struggled against the Nixon administration on more than one front. The film divides its time between the reporters and editors who broke the Pentagon Papers, and Katharine Graham and her personal struggles as she tries to decide between her personal connections and her duty as the head of a newspaper. Each of these is done fine, especially the thrilling scenes trying to get to print on time, while Hanks and Streep bring their lovable charm and charisma to the roles so that nothing ever feels too stale.

So while I applaud “The Post” for giving audiences a chance to realize that we need journalism now more than ever, I can’t really say this film does anything else spectacularly. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a solid well-made film with a thrilling climax and some fascinating character development for Katharine Graham. I respect “The Post” more than I enjoyed it. See this one not because it’s Steven Spielberg directing Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, see it to be reminded why the world still needs journalism.

 

 

Final Grade: B