I've watched several movies lately that were excellent and several that were just awful. I'm always disappointed when really talented people make just awful films.
I do have to admit, however, that although I'm not a big fan of TV, I have been enjoying two shows very much, the historical time-machine thriller Timeless, and This Is Us. I learn something when watching those shows, and the emotional payoffs are rich. They are both great TV.
Anyway, here are my mini-reviews...
This should have earned Matthew McConaughey another Oscar nomination, at least. He gave a powerful performance, playing a real man named New Knight who lived in Mississippi during the Civil War, and deserted from the Confederate Army. There's an excellent article in Smithsonian, The True Story of the 'Free State of Jones' and it says, in part:
"Newton Knight, a poor white farmer who led an extraordinary rebellion during the Civil War. With a company of like-minded white men in southeast Mississippi, he did what many Southerners now regard as unthinkable. He waged guerrilla war against the Confederacy and declared loyalty to the Union.
In the spring of 1864, the Knight Company overthrew the Confederate authorities in Jones County and raised the United States flag over the county courthouse in Ellisville. The county was known as the Free State of Jones, and some say it actually seceded from the Confederacy."
The movie looks breathtakingly accurate in the period details, from the clothes to the houses. I'm always thrilled to see historical movies that look correct.
I'm so sorry this film didn't do better at the box office because it has a lot of interesting things to say about history, and about race. Knight was a fascinating character. I hope it gets picked up by Starz or HBO, because young people of all races need to see this film.
I love Melissa McCarthy. I think she's super talented. I have watched Spy a number of times and enjoyed it every time. The Boss, however, is just HORRIBLE. Poorly written, not funny, just an enormous waste of time. Melissa's character "Michelle Darnell" is just a nightmare.
Plot: "A titan of industry is sent to prison after she's caught insider trading. When she emerges ready to rebrand herself as America's latest sweetheart, not everyone she screwed over is so quick to forgive and forget." [IMDB]
There's some explanation of her bad behavior, as Michelle was supposedly raised in an orphanage and returned several times by adoptive parents. That felt really forced, fake, and rather insulting to the adoption community.
The Boss could have been a semi-cute movie to show kids but good heavens no. Jokes about sex abound, some very explicit, and no child should see this movie, EVER. Few grownups should see it either.
What happened to funny writing? To character-driven humor? I guess it's day is past. Too bad. Mary Tyler Moore was phenomenal at that type of humor, as was Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett, etc.
I liked the first film. It seemed to be gimmicky but it wasn't really, it was more of a character study. The new one is more of the same:
"After fleeing from a stage show, the illusionists (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson) known as the Four Horsemen find themselves in more trouble in Macau, China. Devious tech wizard Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) forces the infamous magicians to steal a powerful chip that can control all of the world's computers. Meanwhile, vengeful FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) hatches his own plot against Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), the man he blames for the death of his father."
The sequel is entertaining but not engaging, unfortunately. Much of it is silly and involves tricks. Roger Ebert's review is pretty accurate, although I wouldn't agree that Woody Harrelson is all that great. Michael Caine is fun to watch -- when he's playing a meanie he owns it. Daniel Radcliffe plays a meanie too, and is far less effective. It's just impossible to believe grownup Harry Potter is evil.
Nowadays, a good movie is one that I want to fully watch, ignoring my phone. Only Jones made me ignore my phone..