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Rating History

Collateral Beauty
12 hours ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Although January has been known to be the dumping ground for films that studios don't believe in, December has also become that month as well. Yes, December and January is usually when you can go to any cinema and find a handful of films that will be nominated for #Oscars, ensuring your satisfaction at the movies. Having said that, smaller studio films are placed next to a huge blockbuster, because they don't know where else to place it. After seeing a few trailers for Collateral Beauty it truly made me think it was going to be a very enjoyable time at the theatre. Sadly, there is a reason that it was released alongside Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, not due to the fact that it wanted to compete for best quality, but because it really won't end up finding a huge fanbase. Why? Collateral Beauty is one of the most manipulative films I have seen in a long time. Let's dive in.

Minor spoilers to follow. Read at your own risk.

The plot of this film will be jarring to explain for those who don't know, because the trailers have technically been lying to you. Making it out to be a happy-go-lucky film about a man who has lost a child and is visited by embodiments of love, time, and death, Collateral Beauty masks its actual story, which really is about a man who is grieving the loss of his daughter, but also is about to lose his company, due to lack of focus. His employees gather together and hire actors to portray the embodiments of love, time, and death in order to stoop to his level after he writes letters to these "things." Not only is this a very mean-spirited film in my personal opinion, but it also takes away the magic of what the trailers advertise, even if that story would have been cheesier. If I had to choose between a mean-spirited or a sappy film, I would have choose sappy every day of the week.

Although I have to admit that I disliked this film overall, the biggest compliment I can give Collateral Beauty, is the fact that it kept pulling me back in, due to the terrific performances. Everyone in this film seems to be giving it their all here, especially Will Smith. He is a man of very few words here, but his expressions and few scenes of complete mental and emotional breakdowns were truly heartbreaking. Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Michael Pena, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Naomi Harris, and Jacob Latimore all give commendable performances, and play off of each other in quite a believable way. Sadly, looking back on this film, these performances are what made this bore of a film watchable. Sure, the film is competently made, but there was so much room for expansion.

The most frustrating aspect about Collateral Beauty was the amount of side stories with every character. The core story here is about Howard (Will Smith), but everyone else receives just as much screen time as him in order to develop their relationships outside of work. These people are supposed to be his friends, yet they do a very mean thing to him, and yet we are also supposed to care about their personal lives, while the story needs you to care about Howard the most. On top of that, just so that the film can have a big reveal in its final act, Howard's backstory is completely glossed over and given to the audience periodically throughout the film. This made the film extremely messy and I hardly found myself emotionally invested in any of it.

In the end, Collateral Beauty it far too manipulative to fully enjoy and although I undoubtedly admired the fact that this is an original film, it was too messy to connect with me. I didn't like this film very much, but the performances are all terrific and while they do belong in a better film, that is the sole aspect that kept latching me on. I was able to grasp onto a few elements and Will Smith made me shed a tear for an instant, but only due to the fact that he committed himself to this role. The story itself is completely lacking depth and should have stuck with a more spiritual route in my opinion. It is competently directed by David Frankel, but sloppily constructed by writer Allan Loeb, who has actually made a couple films I have enjoyed in the past, such as 21. I found myself going back and forth between liking and disliking Collateral Beauty, but in the end, it is completely forgettable and I'll probably never find myself revisiting it. I can't get myself to recommend this film to anyone, but if you are a fan of any of these actors, you'll at least enjoy their performance. This is a mediocre premise that needed some tweaking, but ultimately even falls short of that pedestal as a whole.

Patriots Day
Patriots Day (2017)
3 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

True stories have been around on the big screen for a very long time. Some do poor job and overdo the sappiness of the events and others an impeccable job in capturing the essence of the story. Patriots Day represents the latter. While it's very hard to say you loved a film like this, I can say in confidence that this is a great film that pays tribute to this very touchy event. When I first heard this film was in development, I found myself worried, especially with the notion of Peter Berg directing. At one point, this career felt as though it was going in the route of Michael Bay, especially when he helmed the laughable Battleship. When Lone Survivor was unleashed unto the world, followed by 2016's Deepwater Horizon, it was clear that he had found his niche. Patriots Day is just as effective as it needs to be.

On April 15th, 2013, two men entered the crowds surrounding the Boston Marathon. Setting off multiple bombs, resulting in death and dismemberment, along with emotional scars, this truly was an incredibly sad moment in recent history. Displaying these events on screen must have been very hard to plan out, but they made the proper decisions in the end. Cutting back and forth between the film, recreated security footage, and actual security footage of the event, the emotion was cranked up to eleven. Most films choose to have overblown action set pieces to make the true event more extravagant for the cinema, but Patriots Day is very classy about what is displayed on screen.

There are certain things that the news chooses to leave out and while I did follow the news when this tragic event took place, I don't remember hearing about the aftermath, except for the fact that they found the two men. I had no idea that they shot police officers and threatened the lives of innocent civilians along the way. It should come as no surprise, given the fact that these men have to be crazy in general to even start something like this, but there were quite a few moments throughout this film that I wasn't expecting. Treating this story with care, this film slowly goes through every motion of the five day span that it took to capture these men. I highly commend the way this film showcased everything.

When exploring such a tragic incident, a film needs to be able to keep its audience at ease. No, I'm pretty positive that there was no amount of comedy circling this event, but as far as films go, a bit of levity is needed, so it doesn't become overly depressing. Hiring actors and actresses like Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, and Michelle Monaghan certifies that the film is going to everything it can to deliver this story in a caring way. Having said that, them also being the talent cast that they are, are able to provide a few chuckles for the audience, while still having their eyes well up with sadness. The emotion in Patriots Day is balanced wonderfully.

In the end, Patriots Day is a very solid film that depicts the tragic events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings in a very classy way. Very much like Deepwater Horizon, it very precisely goes through the motions of the event and makes you care about each and every character. As far as story, there is no conceivable way that it can lack in story, due to the nature of the premise at hand, but it does feel more like a dramatization at time, rather than a Hollywood picture. There is something very stagey about this film that I just can't get out of my head. That bothered me throughout the duration, but there is no denying that the performers took this material very seriously and Peter Berg took great care in his direction here. Patriots Day is just about as perfect as you can get in putting this particular story on the big screen. Whether you are aware of the terrorism that went on this day in history or not, this is an important picture that I definitely recommend checking out. Very, very well made.

A Walk In The Woods
4 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Whether you have a film like Ex Machina winning the Oscar for best visual effects over films like Mad Max: Fury Road or The Hurt Locker taking precedence over behemoth's like Avatar for best picture, independent films have always had a way of winning over the hearts of many viewers. While not as widely viewed or praised, A Walk in the Woods is a very likeable indie gem that nobody really talks about. Sure, it received a shocking box office return, raking in almost $30,000,000.00, but the word of mouth never spread. This is a film that would attract an audience over the age of 50, but I myself found it quite enjoyable. A Walk in the Woods may not be deserving of high praise, but it's a harmless tale of reconnecting.

Released in 2015, A Walk in the Woods follows Bill Bryson (Robert Redford), an elderly novelist who doesn't have much excitement left in his life. Wanting to hike a trail in his hometown, he seeks companionship as his wife wouldn't let him make the trek otherwise. Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) is the man who seems up to the task, so the two of them venture out into the wilderness to find themselves. This truly is just a simple tale of reconnecting with old friends and exploring parts of yourself that you wish you had in the past. Sadly, there isn't enough substance here to call it a great film, but Robert Redford and Nick Nolte are so likeable as these characters that this average film becomes quite enjoyable.

While watching this film, it's very hard to ignore the low-budget feel, especially if you are into filmmaking as much as I am. Some of the backgrounds are obviously on a sound stage to keep these actors protected and the locations in this film are slim to none. A Walk in the Woods is a very self-aware and contained film, as to what its limits hold. If I'm being completely honest, I found myself picking out the real scenery from the fake scenery, simply due to the fact that the dialogue felt so simple most of the time. Having said that, their dialogue feels extremely fresh at times, due to the commitment of these two very talented actors.

This film may seem like a movie that is only full understood by someone over the age of 50, but anyone who enjoys likeable chemistry, a relaxing story, or slice-of-life storytelling, the you may just find yourself enjoying A Walk in the Woods quite a bit. Watching Redford and Nolte banter through the woods for a solid 90 minutes was well worth the watch on its own. This will never be a film that will be remembered as a classic, but it sure beats the old-age jokes from a film like Last Vegas, where actors like Morgan Freeman or Kevin Klein are just present for a good time and a paycheque. As simple as this story is, it's definitely worth a watch and doesn't deserve to be as forgotten as it has become over the past year or so.

A Walk in the Woods shouldn't be criticized for its simplicity, which is what some critics have said about it, because a film like this can't really do much more than it does. It promises an enjoyable time through the woods with two old friends who need a little excitement in their old age, and it delivers just that. Nothing more and nothing less. This is a perfectly fine and disposable film for anyone who wants a quick smile on their face when they have nothing else to watch. Well-directed for the most part, very well-acted by these two veterans, and the script is as competent as it should be for this type of film. I didn't find myself jumping up and down and needing to recommend it to everyone, but for how likeable it is, it's sad that it hasn't been seen by many viewers. A Walk in the Woods is an enjoyable little flick.

Queen of Katwe
4 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Disney has had their share of flops, but when it comes to film studios, they have been more than pleasing their audiences lately, with critics and audiences loving their incarnation of Star Wars or their live-action remakes in The Jungle Book, Cinderella, or the upcoming Beauty and the Beast, which will surely be a billion dollar box office winner. Aside from their famous products, I have always admired their secondary films each year. With films like Million Dollar Arm or Miracle, they have a knack for true stories as well. Although most of them are fluff for families to enjoy together, they've always had a certain charm. Queen of Katwe on the other hand, may just be the best true story they have told to date. Sadly, nobody went out of their way to find a theatre playing it. Here is why I believe Queen of Katwe may just be the most overlooked film of 2016.

David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyongo'of Katwe follows Phiona, a young girl in a family living without a home in Uganda. Robert Katende, the town Futball (Soccer) coach, notices her skills in the game of Chess. promising her mother that he will be able to put her into school if she does well, he brings her into school competitions, which will eventually have her competing across the globe. This is a very moving film that explores how hard some people have it in this world, but also how we can both be happy with everything and nothing at all times. The sad part is that a film like this doesn't attract a large audience and therefore failed at the box office. If you have yet to see Queen of Katwe or even hear about it, I highly recommend checking it out.

David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong'o are show stealers here, and while they may take the focus away from the central character, their times to shine are well worth it. That being said, Madina Nalwanga, who portrays the character of Phiona, is absolutely break-out worthy. The way she is able to react to ceratin elements throughout the film, whether it is the environment around her or how she is supposed to act in certain institutions, her performances gleams off the screen. Queen of Katwe is a very powerful and satisfying story that is elevated even higher by the performances at hand. This cast made the pacing go very, very quickly.

Directed by Mira Nair, who is no stranger to filmmaking, but definitely that of American Cinema, directs with passion here. In her first ever English-speaking film, she is still able to capture the beautiful landscapes of Uganda, display the hardships of life, and although the film feels slightly polished, it's easily one of Disney's riskiest projects. I found myself engaged in every moment and the scenery felt as if I had been watching a documentary on these people. After seeing the comparisons in the credits, they did a damn fine job in the casting department. Queen of Katwe is fantastic for all of these reasons and more.

In the end, a film like this all comes down to whether or not it was effective. By the end of Queen of Katwe, I was in tears as to how well this film was executed. I loved every second of this film, even though it does seem to skip over a few key moments. I could tell that there were story elements that the writers chose to gloss over. That being said, this is far better than any of the recent B-movie true stories that Disney has produced in recent memory. Well-directed, well-acted, and inspiringly put together, Queen of Katwe is a terrific film from start to finish. I do wish the film was 20 minutes longer in order to compensate for the obvious story jumps, but that is just a minor issue. Please, do yourself a favour and check out Queen of Katwe.

Hidden Figures
5 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

It seems like now, more than ever, cinema is producing the most films based on true racial stories of the past. Hidden Figures does this as well, but in a way that nobody has seen on screen yet, which is saying something. From not knowing this film was coming out, to watching a couple trailers that peaked my interest, to hearing that it's being considered for many categories at the #Oscars, it was a film that very quickly became a priority to see. After seeing Hidden Figures, I can't recommend this film enough. Not just to people who can relate with particular situations presented throughout this film, but it's a reminder of how far we've come as a society, as well as an important story about Nasa that many people (including myself) may not have known.

There are very few people out there today that are aware of the story that Hidden Figures presents. I could be wrong, but so many people talk about the first moon landing and the discovery and loss of new planets, stories like these easily become forgotten. That is a very sad notion, because this is one of the most powerful films of 2016 in my opinion. The first three African-American women to work for Nasa, also end up becoming the biggest need in putting the first man into space. That is essentially the basic premise of Hidden Figures, and while that may seem like a story better told in a classroom, this may just be the most important film that has been displayed on the big screen in quite some time.

When it comes to telling a story like this, you don't want to come off preachy, offending some viewers along the way. It is impeccable that the direction is handled with care and casting the right people to relay the important messages is just as key. Janelle MonŠe, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer are all superb in their respective roles here, along with some surprisingly good scenes with Jim Parsons and Kevin Costner. In my opinion, Taraji P. Henson stole the show in setting the diminish of the border between races in motion. All three of them have their moments to shine, but there is something about Henson's performance that stood out the most to me.

All in all, I didn't find myself complaining about too much when the film concluded, but I did look back and think that a few scenes could have been cut or trimmed down to shave off about 10-15 minutes. The first act is just as enjoyable as the rest of the film, but it admittedly takes its time to get moving. That being said, once it gets moving, it doesn't let up until the credits roll. The direction by Theodore Melfi was very sincere, hitting every right beat for the story at hand. I found myself applauding inside, each and every time a character was able to further their dreams. St. Vincent was a fantastic first feature film from Melfi and after seeing Hidden Figures, I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. He truly makes any dull moment bearable in this otherwise superb picture.

In the end, Hidden Figures makes more than one powerful statement throughout its 127 minute duration, each as impactful as the last. This film is all about making a statement, but the editing, pacing, performances, and dialogue written impeccably by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi was riveting. The first act is slightly too slow, but I was on the edge of my seat during the second and third. When you tell a true story, without making anything seem farfetched or stretched (which I am sure this film did in some capacity), you know you have made a quality film. You should be expecting this film to get quite a few awards nods and deservedly so. Hidden Figures may have a few minor issues here and there, but it's still one of my favourites from 2016.