Monday, February 13, 2017

Movie Review … Hidden Figures


The best thing about movie biographies is the broadening of stories told.  Audiences would never know the behind the scenes work done by unsung heroes of yesteryear.  ‘Hidden Figures’ tells an engaging tale about which little is known.  Based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, the factual basis makes it all the more interesting.  Although a fictional story can transport you to another world, real-life ones transport you to the same world in a different time.  ‘Hidden Figures’ timeless messages ring true in an era where true equality is still needed.

In 1961, Katherine (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy (Octavia Spencer) and Mary (Janelle Monae) are African American mathematicians working at a government computer division.  Recruited by the head of the American Space Task Group Al Harrison (Kevin Costner), the trio look forward to new challenges.  They soon discover bigotry is still rife no matter where they work.  Getting on with the task of helping send Astronauts into space, their skills are desperately needed no matter the bias they constantly face.

‘Hidden Figures’ is an interesting historical document told well.  Whilst it simplifies complex situations, it provides a broad overview of the film’s setting.  The break-takingly awful racism the ladies endured and the ridiculous ways they had to overcome it seem unfathomable today.  This underlining issue successfully blends into the script’s main theme of breaking down barriers in which to achieve great things. The race against time to send American astronauts into space is made more exciting under Theodore Melfi’s astute direction.

‘Hidden Figures’ works due to the high quality performances.  Henson makes for a solid lead with her dignified portrayal embodying her character’s strength against adversity.  Her iron will makes it easy to follow her personal and professional dramas.  Her friendships with Dorothy and Mary are grounded in believability with Costner a dependable anchor who binds the narrative.  Although clich├ęs abound, ‘Hidden Figures’ makes good use of its setting and the music aiding rather than subtracting from the central story.

In terms of style, ‘Hidden Figures’ may not be ground-breaking as a movie biography.  Its success lies in telling its tale with passion and sensitivity.  It does so very well and serves as a reminder that equality for all is worth fighting for no matter how large an obstacle may be.


 

Movie Review Rating out of 10:  7

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.




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Movie Review … Fences

Over the years there has been countless stage to screen adaptations. Movie producers, dazzled by what they see on stage, have quickly snapped up the rights to create films.  Plays such as ‘Annie’, ‘A Chorus Line’ have had varying screen success.  Based on August Wilson’s play, ‘Fences’ attempts to break free from its theatrical origins.  As usual, ‘Fences’ makes the mistake of not doing enough to adapt the words to the big screen.  It still has stirring performances but won’t go down as being one of the more memorable stage transplantations.

Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is a hard working husband and father in 1950’s Pittsburgh. Bitter at past regrets, he shoulders a lifetime of pain.  His wife Lee (Viola Davis) stands as a peacemaker between him and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo).  Arguments are often heated between them with friendships and entangled familial relationships sorely tested. Events rapidly escalate and threaten to destroy all Troy has worked for as he attempts to make peace with the demons that constantly haunt him.

Directed by star Denzel Washington, ‘Fences’ gives him much to flex his thespian muscles.  As the eternally angry head of the family, Troy’s sour demeanour tries to ensnare those around him.  By keeping his family under his thumb, he hopes for some form of control.  The film’s title derives from the fence he builds and his hopes that it will contain the rage threatening to unleash.  Whilst Washington gives a spirited performance, his character is so unlikeable it makes for tiresome viewing.

Adding to the lethargy is the filming within confined spaces increasing the level of monotony. Little has been done to clearly show the world Troy lives in.  This may have helped to better understand why he acts in certain ways and why his family put up with him.  ‘Fences’ would have sunk further had it not been for a great cast who give their roles energy, especially Davis who is great as the long-suffering wife.  The period setting isn’t used as well as it could have been, even if the cinematography successfully exposes its grittiness.

Failing to fully transport the stage’s original power, ‘Fences’ is only a moderate screen success.  Not all stage plays need movie adaptations as ‘Fences’ proves despite its fine performances.  Hopefully future adaptations will be more capable of opening up stage plays for all types of audiences to enjoy.
 


Movie Review Rating out of 10:  6

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.

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Movie Review … Fifty Shades Darker

In 2011, British author E.L. James achieved notoriety by writing the erotic novel ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.  Four years later it became a hit movie, wowing the intended audience who lapped up the salacious carry-on.  Popularity breeds success and sequels which leads to ‘Fifty Shades Darker’. The second in the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy serves up more of the same.  Those expecting undemanding naughtiness will see plenty.  Anyone expecting a good film will be disappointed as it’s as shoddily made as its previous and very wicked entry.

Multi-millionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) is miserable.  Although having the world at his feet, he is despondent over the recent departure of his muse Ana (Dakota Johnson).  Wanting to resume their very adult romance, he insists Ana sets the terms of their relationship.  Keen on the idea, Ana discovers more of the demons driving Christian’s sexual desires.  The past quickly catches up with them as others threaten to spoil their union and dark activities.

‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is the type of movie that is critic proof.  Many expect hardened film reviewers to sharpen their talons at the poor acting, script and direction.  All of which can be found in the latest ’50 Shades’ instalment.  It’s easy railing the ridiculous story and gaping plot-holes of which there are many.  One could feel sorry for those involved although remembering how much they are getting paid to do these films lessens any remorseful feelings.

One of this sequel’s few saving graces is the expansion of Grey’s world and exploration of his background.  You understand why he behaves in certain ways with his controlling nature alienating and arousing those around him.  Most readers would want to know about the lauded sex scenes, which aren’t particularly erotic and stay within the film’s chaste ratings guidelines.  The acting is uniformly poor with the leads showing little chemistry.  Their co-stars’ lifeless performances make for unintentionally hilarious viewing as they react to each plot twist with Botox-filled emotions.

‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is pretty terrible but will make a fortune no matter what critics say.  It does have few good points over its predecessor in terms of explaining character motivations. Otherwise it is business as usual for a franchise intent on making as much money as possible until the next flash in the pan novel phenomenon arrives.

 
Movie Review Rating out of 10:  2

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

Agree with Patrick's Movie Review? Then please use the comment box.

Patrick Moore's Movie Review is an alternative look at movie releases in Australia.


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