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Jennie’s Review: Out of the Furnace

Letter Grade:
(?)

A
The Good:

Acting
Cinematography
Realism


The Bad:

If I have to pick, I'd say that it isn't exactly uplifting.

Cast & Crew:

Directed By: Scott Cooper
Written By: Scott Cooper and Brad Ingelsby
Starring: Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana, and Sam Shepard

Rated R for strong violence, language and drug content

Out of the Furnace opens with Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) at a drive in theater.  He is on a date and the woman with him says something that upsets him.  He proceeds to throw her food out the window, jam a cigar down her throat, slam her head against the dash board, and then beats a good samaratatin checking on his date so savagely that onlookers are calling 911 by the end of the scene.  In case you missed the subtlety of this scene, he’s an awful person and the most OUT OF THE FURNACEobvious bad guy of the movie… unless of course you include post traumatic stress disorder and crippling depression as bad guys as well.

We then meet Russell Baze (Christian Bale) a worker at the local Steel Mill and his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), a Veteran who has done a few tours in the Middle East and is heading out for another due to being stop-lossed.  Rodney has a gambling problem (and a Bare-knuckle boxing to pay off his debts problem), Russell works hard and tries to bail him out as much as he can but it’s not enough.  Their father, who also spent his life working at the Steel Mill, is dying and hooked up to all sorts of medical equipment in his own living room.  Russell’s girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana) wants more of a commitment, specifically a baby, but he does not believe he is financially ready for that sort of step.OUT OF THE FURNACE

Then Russell makes a terrible decision that changes his life and the lives of his loved ones forever.

This is the second endeavor for Director Scott Cooper.  His directorial debut was the critically acclaimed, award winning, and box office success Crazy Heart.  While this movie did not garner as much hype as the first one did, and it will not surpass its success, I believe it to be a wonderful piece that Cooper should be proud of. (more…)








Rob’s Review: Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Lee Daniels' The Butler on Cinedraft.com
Letter Grade:
(?)

A-
The Good:

Excellent performances from Whitaker and Oyelowo
Works as a father-son drama


The Bad:

Presidents universally miscast.
Plays fast and loose with actual history

Cast & Crew:

Director: Lee Daniels
Writer: Danny Strong
Stars: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey,David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Robin Williams, John Cusack, James Marsden, Minka Kelly, Liev Schreiber, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda

Rated PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking

Lee Daniels’ The Butler gets off to a kind of rapey and murdery start.  Forrest Whitaker’s Cecil Gaines grows up in the south, and when his mother is raped and his father is murdered by their employer, the matriarch of the employing family moves young Cecil into the house to be a servant. Cecil knows this won’t end well, so after some training he runs off and finds employment at a hotel, where he begins to learn the fine art of buttling. Eventually he moves to Washington D.C. where he begins working at a fine hotel, and eventually he is discovered and offered a job at the White House, where he serves every President from Eisenhower to Reagan.

 The Butler on Cinedraft.com

The film gives us little glimpses of (most of) these presidents (they skip right over Ford and Carter), mostly looking at Civil Rights in that era, contrasting civil rights discussions in the White House with the experience of Gaines’ son, a Freedom Rider in the South. The meat of the movie is in Gaines’ relationship with his son and the rest of his family, but these little peeks inside the White House do a pretty good job of humanizing the Presidents, even if they can’t do any one of them justice.

The presidents are pretty much universally miscast, the filmmakers seeming to care more about having actors you’d recognize more than actors who would actually make you think they ARE that president. The makeup on them is generally good though, and it’s exceptional on Forrest Whitaker himself. You see Gaines over the majority of his life and Whitaker always looks the part.

 The Butler on Cinedraft.com

Oprah is good as Gaines’ wife, but the real standout of the supporting cast is David Oyewolo as Gaines’ son Louis. He’s really almost a co-lead as he grows up in the midst of the civil rights movement, going away to college to be in the civil rights movement, becomes a Freedom Rider, travels with Dr. King, becomes a Black Panther and comes back to the mainstream. Louis goes through a huge arc, and Oyewolo makes it all believable.

There will be Oscar nominations to come out of this film, and it’s an important story, if not a terribly historically accurate one. It’s “inspired” by the story of a real butler at the White House, but the parts of the narrative that work the best definitely came from the mind of Danny Strong. And I can’t fault the film for that, because they ARE the parts that work the best. Those who are getting upset about “President X didn’t really think that” or “the real Butler didn’t have a son in Vietnam” are missing the real point of the movie (though so are any who might go the other direction, putting too much faith in its accuracy).  It doesn’t gel perfectly, and this isn’t really the story of the Butler who worked at the White House forever, it’s the story of a father and a son during the civil rights movement, and as that alone it works.








Summer Movie Preview: August

OK, not too much witty stuff here today, there’s just too many movies coming out in August.  Enjoy the trailers and maybe some of our ramblings on some of the movies being released over the next few weeks.

The Smurfs 2

Release Date: August 2nd (well, really it was released today)

Synopsis: The Smurfs team up with their human friends to rescue Smurfette, who has been kidnapped by Gargamel since she knows a secret spell that can turn the evil sorcerer’s newest creation – creatures called the Naughties – into real Smurfs. The film is being directed again by Raja Gosnell, with all the main cast returning (Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays, etc). New cast includes Christina Ricci and J. B. Smoove as members of the Naughties, and Brendan Gleeson as Patrick Winslow’s stepfather.

Our Thoughts:

Dave: I didn’t let the first Smurfs movie ruin my cherished childhood Smurf-related memories I am sure as hell not going to start now by seeing this one. (Strange, my spell check doesn’t recognize “Smurf-related” as a word…maybe it’s not supposed to be hyphenated.)

Jennie: OK, I love Neil Patrick Harris but, this movie isn’t for me. Not that I think it looks (too) terrible, but it is geared towards a much younger audience. Some family movies are fun for adults too, but I don’t think this one fits into that category.

Rob: I’m sure this will bring some joy to some children, but not nearly as much joy as that felt by those actors’ agents. Yay, 10%!

Felix: Raja Gosnell took a great Scooby Doo script in which they had a bunch of adult themed jokes into the incomprehensible piece of garbage we saw. He did the same for the Smurfs. Just saying, this is going to suck.

Dave: Wait…you know the writer of Scooby Doo??

Felix: Read the original screenplay.

Jennie: Wait, you read the original screenplay for the Scooby Doo Movie???

Felix: Yes

Nicole: We saw the first one and I wouldn’t say it was awful, it did have some funny parts but it was slow and not great overall. I’m not really looking forward to this one even though I love NPH. My daughter however has been counting the days until it comes out. I haven’t been gutsy enough yet to tell her that we will not be seeing it on opening weekend

(more…)








New Trailer: Out of the Furnace

When Rodney Baze mysteriously disappears and law enforcement fails to follow through, his older brother, Russell, takes matters into his own hands to find justice.

2013 seems to be the year of wonderful ensemble casts, and this movie is no exception. Out of the Furnace stars Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Shepard.  Not to mention that every one of these actors (with the exception of Dafoe… maybe) is in at least one other major or critically acclaimed movie this year. Directed by second time director Scott Cooper, whose directorial debut was the Oscar winning 2009 hit Crazy Heart.

*Photo courtesy of Relativity Media via image.net








Trailer: The Butler

The Butler tells the story of Eugene Allen, who had a unique place in the history of the 20th century, serving eight presidents as the White House’s head butler from 1952 to 1986.

Directed by  (Precious), and starring Oprah WinfreyCuba Gooding Jr.David OyelowoTerrence HowardAlex PettyferVanessa RedgraveLenny KravitzJohn CusackRobin WilliamsJames MarsdenAlan RickmanLiev SchreiberMelissa LeoMinka Kelly, and Jane Fonda.

This is Oprah’s first acting role since 1998’sBeloved.