Bro-Reviews: Isle of Dogs

Best in show.

Wes Anderson is in undoubtedly a true auteur by Hollywood standards. His quirky style and attention to visual detail has made him every hipster’s favorite filmmaker, but even mainstream audiences have finally started to catch on to his work. Anderson’s latest project has more mass appeal than all of his previous works thanks to its furry and friendly subject matter, Isle of Dogs, his second foray into the stop motion animation genre.

Isle of Dogs takes place in the not too distant dystopian future in Megasaki City, Japan, where an outbreak of dog flu and other various diseases has infected the dog population. The mayor of Megasaki City, Kobayashi (voiced by Kunichi Nomura), declares a state of emergency, and banishes all dogs to a nearby trash island, becoming the isle of dogs. However, a little boy named Atari (voiced by Koyu Rankin) flies to the island in the hopes of finding his dog, Spots (voiced by Liev Schreiber). Upon reaching the island a pack of dogs consisting of Chief (voiced by Bryan Cranston), Rex (voiced by Edward Norton), King (voiced by Bob Balaban), Boss (voiced by Bill Murray), and Duke (voiced by Jeff Goldblum) attempt to help Atari. Meanwhile, a young exchange student from Cincinnati, Ohio named Tracy Walker (voiced by Greta Gerwig) believes she is on the verge of uncovering a political conspiracy as to why the virus is seemingly incurable.

The animation in the film is nothing short of astounding. All of the dogs have their own unique characteristics that makes them who they are, and their scruffy, sickly look truly resembles that of abandoned dogs. The animation also lends itself well to the human characters and their environments, as Megasaki City illuminates Asian culture in ways not even live action films can accomplish. This marks yet another visually stunning entry in Wes Anderson’s career, and even perhaps his best yet.

Anderson’s trademark quirky humor is also ever present in the film. One may not have thought about it beforehand, but the ability for canines to communicate to us through just their looks and reactions fits perfectly with Anderson’s humor. The added fact the dogs can talk and communicate is also an added bonus, as their reactions and thoughts are conveyed in hilarious fashion throughout the film.

Brody-Isle-Of-Dogs
Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston, and Koyu Rankin in Isle of Dogs.

As far as the all star voice cast, Bryan Cranston and Edward Norton do a fantastic job as Chief and Rex, providing the film with a veteran presence. Bill Murray also gets his licks in as Boss, a liver spotted mutt for a Japanese baseball team that will have you rolling. Greta Gerwig as the exchange student Tracy Walker and Frances McDormand as an interpreter of the events unfolding also provide humanity and funny commentary to the film, proving the canines aren’t the only ones holding their own. The rest of the voice cast, rounded out by Jeff Goldblum, Liev Schriber, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, and Tilda Swindon also hit their marks and provide even more hilarity to the film.

The story itself is also quite timely considering the current state of of America. The current political happenings revolving around corruption and fear based rationale are explored in the film to tremendous results. The theory of basing political agendas on fear of “the other” or those unlike us is not only relevant, but also cautions us of a slippery slope that could become our reality should we continue our biased and paranoid ways.

Isle of Dogs is a delight. Not only does the film make good on its furry premise, but also provides timely commentary of our current political state. With an all star voice cast that is able to execute the director’s trademark style and humor and near perfect animation, Isle of Dogs is easily one of the year’s best films. Were it performing in the National Dog Show, Isle of Dogs would easily win best in show.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars. Pay full price.

Isle of Dogs stars Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Kunichi Nomura, Koyu Rankin, Ken Watanabe, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Tilda Swinton, Yoko Ono, and Scarlett Johansson. It is in limited release now, and expands nationwide April 13th.

 

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Bro-Reviews: Death Wish

Die Hard on ZzzQuil.

We would be very irresponsible if we did not take the current temperature of the room in relation to gun violence in America and say tensions are running high in light of the recent Parkland, Florida high school shooting. One of the most common arguments against gun control from NRA propagandists and gun lovers alike is these shootings are preventable by enabling “law-abiding” citizens to carry concealed weapons on them, this way they can fight fire with fire. One of the visions these delusional psychopaths have is to emulate Bruce Willis’s John McClane from the Die Hard film series and save the day in such situations. If that seems a bit out of touch, maybe Willis’s latest action vehicle, Death Wish, will suffice their deranged fantasies.

Death Wish sees emergency room surgeon Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) living a successful, peaceful life with his wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) and daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone) in the crime ridden city of Chicago. One night while Dr. Kersey is at work, Lucy and Jordan fall victim to a house robbery, leaving Lucy dead and Jordan badly injured. Dissatisfied with the lack of progress in the police’s investigation on the matter, Dr. Kersey takes it upon himself by becoming a vigilante crime fighter to find the men who committed the crime while also taking on the most dangerous criminals the city of Chicago has to offer.

There’s no doubt Death Wish suffers from spectacularly terrible timing, as its release comes a mere 16 days after the Parkland, Florida high school shooting tragedy. A film about a vigilante seeking justice may please the gun worshiping crowd and fulfill their bloodthirsty fantasies of protecting those they love or going after “gangbangers” with an arsenal that rivals that of a member of the military, but to everyone else the film comes across as blatantly tone-deaf. Even witnessing Willis’s character evolution from being a “Mr. Nice Guy” into a tough guardian comes across as a Batman origin story mixed with Fox News ideologies, a laughable and silly transformation at best. It doesn’t help the film will draw comparisons to the original 1974 version starring Charles Bronson, whereas that film had gripping conviction, this re-make resonates as offensive and rote, a surprising result coming from director and current master of gore Eli Roth.

Death-Wish-Remake-Trailer-2-Bruce-Willis
Bruce Willis in Death Wish.

The film’s titular star doesn’t exactly bring much life to the film, as Bruce Willis, who has recently become the king of direct-to-video action trash, sleep walks his way through the film. Willis has done films like Death Wish to death throughout his career, but even Willis at his laziest is still somewhat charming. The rest of the cast fills in somewhat nicely, with veteran actors Vincent D’Onofrio as Willis’s brother and Dean Norris as a detective on the case standing out the most.

While Eli Roth’s direction doesn’t rise above anything other than ordinary, he is able to get a couple of thrilling action sequences out of the film. Seeing Willis back in the foray as an action star delivering killer blows, while tone deaf at this time, is still fun to watch. Willis is an action icon, and even him sleep walking through a role like this one while still managing to deliver some hard-hitting action is somewhat of a welcome return, especially in a theatrically released setting.

Death Wish doesn’t add anything new to the revenge/ vigilante action sub-genre and is the current epitome of a gun-toting lunatic’s dream scenario. Its impeccably bad timing does not do itself any favors, but it delivers just enough action and Bruce Willis for the least demanding of action enthusiasts to warrant a look. It may be Die Hard on Zzzquil, but at least we get Bruce Willis back on the silver screen before he cashes another check on a direct-to-DVD release he merely rolls out of bed for.

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars. Rent it.

Death Wish stars Bruce Willis, Vincent D’onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, Mike Epps, Camila Morrone, and Beau Knapp. It is in theaters March 2nd.

Bro-Reviews: Academy Award Nominations and Snubs

While you were sleeping, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the nominees for the best in film 2017. The most notable awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actress, and Best Actor, are always hotly debated every year. This discussion only gets more heated once we learn those who were snubbed from the list of nominations. The nominees, along with the snubs, are:

Best Picture:

The Shape of Water”

“Call Me by Your Name”

“Darkest Hour”

“Dunkirk”

“Get Out”

“Lady Bird”

“Phantom Thread”

“The Post”

“The Shape of Water”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Snubs: “Wonder Woman”, “I, Tonya”

Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman.”

For the most part, the academy got the nominations here right. All of the films listed above opened to rave reviews, and have had relatively healthy box office longevity. It is curious, however, in the wake of the #MeeToo and Time’s Up movements that Wonder Woman, the 3rd highest grossing film of the year, wasn’t nominated. Maybe it’s more proof the Academy isn’t ready to acknowledge super-hero movies as the best films (*see The Dark Knight and The Avengers), but considering the current times, acknowledging Wonder Woman as one of the best films of 2017 should’ve been a no-brainer. On top of that, I, Tonya has received critical acclaim due to its performances, yet didn’t crack the “Best Picture” list.

Best Actress:

Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”

Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”

Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Snubs: Michelle Williams, “All the Money in the World”, Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”

Jessica Chastain in “Molly’s Game.

All of the nominees are deserving of a nomination here, and maybe there just weren’t enough slots to go around. Michelle Williams has been a force throughout the years during awards season, but her exclusion from this category is questionable considering her great performance in All the Money in the World. Jessica Chastain has also received accolades for her powerhouse performance in Molly’s Game, but also got left off the list due to the number of great performances this year.

Best Actor:

Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.”

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”

Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”

Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”

Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel Esquire”

Snubs: Tom Hanks, “The Post”, James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

James Franco in “The Disaster Artist.”

The biggest surprise here is Washington’s nomination for a so-so movie. He’s the best thing in it, but it’s the only nomination Roman J. Israel Esquire received. Maybe it was a toss-up between Washington and Hanks, who while doesn’t give a memorable performance, has now not been nominated since 2000’s Cast Away. More egregious was the snubbing of James Franco, who won the Golden Globe for his role as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist. Maybe his recent sexual assault allegations had something to do with it, but Franco was most certainly overlooked for some reason.

Best Director:

Guillermo del Toro, director of “The Shape of Water.”

Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”

Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”

Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread”

Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

Snub: Steven Spielberg, “The Post”

Merly Streep, director Steven Spielberg, and Tom Hanks on the set of “The Post.”

Once again, not many surprises in this category.  The biggest omission, however, is Steven Spielberg. Spielberg is a stalwart in Hollywood, and his film about the importance of the news media is quite topical. Personally, I didn’t find The Post to be extraordinary, but there had to have been some way to include him in this list.

Best Supporting Actor

Sam Rockwell in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”

Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”

Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Snub: Armie Hammer, “Call Me by Your Name”

Armie Hammer in “Call Me by Your Name.”

The biggest surprise in this list is the inclusion of Woody Harrelson. His Three Billboards co-star, Sam Rockwell, is considered the favorite, and it’s a curious decision as to why both men were included in the list of nominees. This led to the exclusion of Armie Hammer, who received universal acclaim for his role as an older, same-sex lover in Call Me by Your Name. Maybe he’s still paying for the sins of The Lone Ranger, but leaving Hammer off this list seems like an error.

Best Supporting Actress:

Allsion Janney in “I, Tonya.”

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”

Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Snubs: Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”, Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip”

Tiffany Haddish in “Girl’s Trip.”

Most of the nominees here were expected, but you’d have to believe the nomination of Lesley Manville, who hadn’t received much attention until now, cost Holly Hunter a nomination for her career renaissance role in indie darling The Big Sick. And while she was a presenter of the nominees and comedies typically don’t get love from the Academy, one could make an argument for Tiffany Haddish in Girls Trip. In a year in which diversity is at the forefront, why not recognize one of the funniest performances from a predominantly African-American film?

 

 

 

 

Bro-Reviews: The Post

Donald Trump’s least favorite movie of 2017.

There’s no doubt the rising political tensions in America point towards one direction: Donald Trump. Whether you voted for him or not, one must admit his presidency has been a nothing short of a circus. He somehow finds himself in the headlines seemingly every week for all the wrong reasons, and constantly lambasts the media while being so paranoid to the point he labels it “Fake News.” The only President who comes to mind in regards to Trump’s insecure behavior is Mr. Watergate himself, Richard Nixon. After countless films of eviscerating him, Steven Spielberg decided it was time for him to once again put his history teacher’s hat on and give us a lecture on the Washington Post’s rise to prominence by exposing Nixon’s hubris of continuing the Vietnam War in The Post.

The Post sees newspaper heiress Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) attempting to balance her politically connected social life with the responsibility of being the publisher of Washington D.C.’s local newspaper, “The Washington Post”. Meanwhile, the paper’s editor in chief, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), and his staff chase after a source who advised President Lyndon Johnson and former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) that the U.S.’s efforts in the Vietnam War were fruitless. When the source delivers them over 20 years worth of secret government documents highlighting the U.S.’s knowledge of their hopeless war but continued to send soldiers there to die anyway, the newspaper is at a crossroads: either publish the documents to expose the government’s conniving deception of the public, or risk federal prosecution at the hands of the government and go to prison.

The Post is undoubtedly a timely subject matter due to the spotlight currently on the Trump administration’s weekly battle with the news media. It makes sense that in times like these Hollywood rallies together in some way to teach us a lesson on past transgressions and highlighting how the American public continues to make the same mistake over and over again while also giving them a glimmer of hope that we can improve in the future. Spielberg has become a master of taking audiences to school and re-enacting important moments in U.S. history, including in films such as Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies. The Post is another one of these films, and Spielberg continues his legendary career by showing his mastery of history and transporting audiences to the past with his taut and skilled direction in the film.

Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in “The Post.”

The performances in the film are great, as is expected when casting lead actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. As a person who typically cannot stand Streep and believes she is the most overrated actress of all-time, Streep is a fantastic as Ms. Graham. Her ability to show Katharine’s vulnerability and insecurities is breathtaking, and her transformation into a woman of influence by the film’s climax is one of the more compelling character arcs in some time. Tom Hanks is in classic Tom Hanks form as Mr. Bradlee, and he and Spielberg have worked together so well for so long one has to wonder if they’re a package deal at this point. The rest of the ensemble cast also meshes well together, particularly Bruce Greenwood’s turn as former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, as he gives a performance that warrants consideration for “Best Supporting Actor.”

Unfortunately for the film, Spielberg wastes the first hour of it with uncompelling drama that includes board meetings, phone calls via a pay phone, and parties you wouldn’t bother RSVP’ing to. It takes too long to get to the most thrilling aspect of the film, the piecing together of the government documents and the decision of whether or not to publish. While the latter half rescues the film and makes up for a lackluster first act, there had to have been a way to keep audiences invested for the entirety of the film, but Spielberg didn’t piece it together well enough. Also, it’s important to note a scene towards the end of the film where Meryl Streep is walking in a crowd of women who are in awe of her. Somewhere, Rose McGowan is pissed. On top of that, we know how this story ends, and for the film to seemingly tease The Post 2: WATERGATE at the very end comes across as a Marvel after-credits stinger, not exactly what one would expect from an awards season contender.

With all of the controversy surrounding the Trump Presidency (*good god uttering those words still doesn’t feel right*) and its similarities to the Nixon administration, The Post couldn’t have been released at a more compelling time in America. While it takes awhile for the film to get going, The Post can be chalked up as another victory for the historian Spielberg due to its gripping final hour and terrific performances. While The Post doesn’t quite reach awards worthy territory, one thing is for certain: it’s Donald Trump’s least favorite movie of 2017.

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars. Pay Matinee Price.

The Post stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bruce Greenwood, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys, Alsion Brie, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, and David Cross.

Bro-Reviews: In Defense of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

The hype was too big to live up to.

The early buzz for the latest entry in the world famous space opera saga Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been very positive, with many saying it is one of the best the series has to offer. With Star Wars: The Last Jedi opening in theaters this week, many television networks are of course opting to show the previous entries in marathon fashion throughout the week. This of course always re-opens the conversation Star Wars junkies and casual fans almost universally agree upon: the prequels are awful.

After the 1983 release of Return of the Jedi, fans had to wait nearly 16 years for another Star Wars film. It came in the form of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menance, the first film in a planned trilogy that would act as a precursor to the original three films from the man who helmed the 1976 film that started a worldwide phenomenon, George Lucas. With the promise of state of the art special effects, a talented ensemble cast including the likes of Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson, and an ominous new threat, the film had sky-high expectations, especially considering the positive reception the first three films earned.

Fans waiting outside of a movie theater to be the first to see “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

While the film earned over $431 million and was a smash hit at the box office, many left the theater disappointed. Most of the complaints centered around the terrible acting, over-complicated plot, lack of action, and Jar-Jar Binks. One might say the film is one of the biggest disappointments in the history of cinema, and the release of two more not well received prequel films only solidifies this status, as it was the one that started the disappointing cycle. I, however, invite you to reconsider, as while The Phantom Menace is far from a perfect film, it is a fine entry in the Star Wars saga.

Many criticize the acting in the film, placing much of the blame squarely on the shoulders of unrefined child actors Natalie Portman and Jake Lloyd as Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker respectively. Here’s a newsflash: most child actors are terrible. I would never advise one to praise their acting prowess in the film, as they deliver mostly wooden performances, but they get the job done. Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor are great as Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Won Kenobi respectively, and are able to anchor the film. And lets be honest, the acting in the original three films is awful as well. There’s a reason why Mark Hamill and Carrie Fischer (*R.I.P.*) didn’t get much work once the original saga concluded, it was because they weren’t very good. Star Wars isn’t a movie franchise you go to see for the acting, you go for the visuals and the story.

Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson, Jake Lloyd, and Ewan McGregor in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

However, many complain the story in Phantom Menace is poor as well. What they really mean is that the story is complicated. It isn’t as clear as the Cold-War like storyline represented in the original three films, which is the Rebels (*the good guys*) fighting the Empire (*the bad guys*) for space supremacy. In Phantom Menace, there’s many more parties involved, including the Republic, the Trade Federation, the Gugans, the Galactic Senate, the Jedi Council, and the Sith. Each of these parties have their own agendas, with some even acting as double agents, thus alluding to the political climate we have grown accustomed to. The film may not have the sharp dialogue required to pull off the story due to George Lucas’s shortcomings as a writer, but the film should be praised for containing such a complex story-line and using it as the set-up to the stories in the 70s and 80s films.

“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

If there’s anything I can agree with most people about, it is Jar-Jar Binks. Actor Ahmed Best will have to live with this burden the rest of his life, as the borderline racist character will forever live in infamy as one of if not the worst character in the Star Wars universe. However, fans and critics are missing the point as to why the character exists: it’s a movie for children. Yes, Star Wars appeals to fans of many ages, but the films target children. Jar-Jar was the major selling point for kids to see the movie, as the fun loving, goofy character represented the lighthearted side of the film, and whose main function was to provide comic relief for the children. After seeing him in the film, children who more than likely loved the character would then bug their parents enough for them to buy them a Jar-Jar toy, thus allowing the Star Wars franchise to obtain even more funds from everyone. The same was and remains true for Chewbacca, the Ewoks, and also continues for new additions like BB-8 and Porg.

Ahmed Best as Jar-Jar Binks in “Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

The podracing scene stands out to most as the best sequence in the entire movie. It’s undoubtedly inventive and suspenseful, and clearly took advantage of the advancements in special effects technology to deliver one of the most thrilling scenes in Star Wars canon. But let’s not forget the feeling of dread and awesomeness when one of the baddest Sith lords to ever grace a Star Wars film, Darth Maul, reveals his double sided lightsaber in the best lightsaber battle in all the Star Wars films. Sure, it’s interrupted by a somewhat annoying Anakin Skywalker in an auto piloted starfighter joining the federation in fighting the droid control ship and the Gugans battling the droids with a clumsy Jar-Jar somehow saving the day, but even those scenes are fun as well. The choreography for the lightsaber fight is unprecedented, filmed in such a way you can tell what’s occurring on screen and feel every clash of a lightsaber, and adds one of the biggest gut-punches that would forever shape the Star Wars universe.

Ewan McGregor in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

It’s elements such as these that makes Phantom Menace much better than its reputation would have you believe. Yes, it’s far from perfect and maybe has its sights set too high in regards to its story for a Star Wars film, but Phantom Menace delivers blockbuster thrills and tremendous state of the art visuals on a grand scale. The hype machine set the expectations for the film so high there was no way it could live up to it. People had been craving another Star Wars movie for over a decade, and wanted it to be the way it was when they were a child. There’s no doubt “this wasn’t my childhood” sentiment also hindered the film, but it’s been long enough now that hopefully everyone has grown up and realized these movies, while they can be enjoyed by all ages, are targeted towards children, which they obviously no longer were by the time Phantom Menace landed in theaters nearly 20 years ago. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace should be given another viewing, and one should leave with a greater appreciation for the film than they did a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Liam Neeson, Ray Park, and Ewan McGregor in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

Rating: 2.5/ 4 Stars. Pay Matinée price.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace stars Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiamird, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Ahmed Best, Frank Oz, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Bro-Reviews: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

An unfocused narrative paired with a tour de force in acting.

Denzel Washington is as accomplished an actor there is in Hollywood. Whether you are a film buff or not, you can identify Mr. Washington easily, particularly by only saying his iconic first name, Denzel. One would think at this point in his illustrious career he may be slowing down, but past awards worthy roles in 2007’s American Gangster, 2012’s Flight, and 2016’s Fences prove he is only getting better with age. Pair him with screenwriter and director Dan Gilroy, who’s coming off the success of his directorial debut Nightcrawler, and Roman J. Israel, Esq. should be chalked-up as another victory for Denzel, right?

Denzel Washington stars as Roman J. Israel, Esq., a legal genius but socially inept lawyer who has spent years fighting the good fight for a small law firm in Los Angeles, California. When his partner in the firm unexpectedly experiences a health emergency, Roman finds himself working for the law firm of a former student of his partners’, George Pierce (Colin Farrell). After years of staying true to his values, he finds his morality being challenged due to a deadly case he’s working on with Pierce, while also starting a relationship with a civil rights worker (Carmen Ejogo).

Roman J. Israel, Esq. rests on the shoulders on its iconic star, and Denzel delivers more awardsworthy work as the titular character. Although the character is not entirely likeable, there’s something stunning about Denzel’s transformation into this very intelligent but people skills lacking lawyer. Washington has displayed unbelievable range and has carried films throughout his career, and once again displays his talents in this film.

One has to think it’s bizarre to see him share scenes with Denzel, but Colin Farrell is on his A-game. He may not be able to match Denzel blow for blow, but his supporting part should be highlighted and deserves awards consideration. Carmen Ejogo also delivers a fine performance as well, as she admires Roman’s quirkiness and sees him as an inspiring figure.

Denzel Washington and Colin Farrell in “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

The issue that looms large over Roman J. Israel, Esq. is the film’s jumbled narrative. At its core, the film is about a man who abandons his selflessness for a short period of time only to realize it is this quality that makes him who he is. The film takes way too long to set this up, as its main story could be told in under two hours easily, but instead runs for an overlong two hours. Its heavy handedness is also glaring, as there are more subtle ways to depict a redemption story than having your leading man call himself a hypocrite at the beginning of the film and seeing him stray away from his magnum opus civil case to experience the luxuries in life once he is able to obtain them. Director Dan Gilroy made Nightcrawler such a taut, slick thriller back in 2014, so it’s curious to see just how this film managed to escape from him and be so distorted.

It doesn’t help seeing Washington’s character struggle in social situations continuously, which becomes more irritating than endearing after awhile. This is due to the fact Roman is the very definition of someone you wouldn’t trust to park your car. He would not only fail to follow instructions, he would attempt to explain why he didn’t do what you told him to do. This hypothetical situation is similar to many of the actions Roman takes throughout the film, making him rather obnoxious. This handicaps the film, as we typically want to sympathize with the protagonist of a film or at least have a reason to care about them. This is especially troubling when a film with a muddled narrative such as this one needs to be carried by the main character in order to make it a better film. That feeling doesn’t arise until the conclusion, and you’re more likely to react by saying “I told you so” rather than be sympathetic.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. isn’t a total misfire, but rather a missed opportunity. The film boasts a capable cast around its star, and features Denzel Washington in yet another tremendous performance. Had the film been more focused, less heavy-handed, and featured a more likeable lead, Roman J. Israel, Esq. could’ve been a nice little redemption story. Instead, what we get from Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a tour de force lead performance that can’t quite makeup for its jumbled narrative.

Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 4. Pay Low Matinée Price.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. stars Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Nazneen Contractor, Joseph David-Jones, Andrew T. Lee, and Shelley Hennig. It is in theaters November 17th.

 

 

 

Bro-Picks: NFL Week 10 Predictions

This is where the men separate themselves from the boys.

Week 10 of the NFL is coming at us fast, and at this point in the season, most teams know what direction they are heading in. That means there are opportunities for teams to separate themselves from others as true contenders, but there’s also just enough time left for teams who got off to slow starts to recover and make a push for the playoffs.

Last Week: 9-4

Overall: 77-55

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (Thursday Night Football)

The Seahawks defense embarrassed themselves last week allowing the Redskins to drive all the way down the field for the game winning touchdown with under two minutes remaining in the game. They’ll have a bounce back performance against the Drew Stanton led Cardinals.

Winner: Seahawks

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans

The Titans were a popular pick to win the AFC South this year, but they haven’t lived up to expectations as a team taking the next step towards contention. Meanwhile, the Bengals are too busy having MMA matches involving star WR A.J. Green to focus on winning.

Winner: Titans

 

Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions

Even with the 6-2 Vikings in their division, this is the perfect season for QB Matt Stafford to lead the Lions to an NFC North title considering Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is sidelined with a collar bone injury. They have to take care of business against the Browns, who recently reinstated former All-Pro WR Josh Gordon, who apparently was intoxicated in one form or another every game of his NFL career. That’s what playing for the Browns will do to someone.

Winner: Lions

 

Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars won without stud rookie RB Leonard Fournette last week, who was suspended by the team for missing the Jaguar’s team photo. That didn’t matter much, as the Jaguars defense held the Bengals to 7 points. While the Chargers have somewhat rebounded from their 0-4 start, it’s a tall order for them to travel across the country and beat a team that boasts one of the best defenses in the league.

Winner: Jaguars

 

New York Jets at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston won’t be tasting any “W’s” any time soon, as he’s out for a couple of weeks with a sprained shoulder. The Buccaneers will start Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB, who will want to enact revenge against his former team. This is the type of game the Jets need to win if they want to continue to avoid tanking,

Winner: Jets

 

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is going to be desposed in former NFL QB Colin Kaepernick’s case in which he is accusing the league of collusion. Kaepernick may not have documentation of this, but anyone looking at how terrible the Packers are starting QB Brett Hundley in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers has to start to wonder if Kaepernick’s kneeling during the National Anthem last year is the reason as to why he remains unsigned.

Winner: Bears

 

New Orleans Saints at Buffalo Bills

The Bills had a chance last week to show they’re for real, and then they laid an egg on Thursday Night Football against the Jets. The Bills have had a record of .500 or better after playing eight games eight times since 1999. They failed to reach the playoffs each of those times. That trend seems like it could continue with a rough second half schedule, starting with a revived Saints team this week.

Winner: Saints

 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts

In immortal words of Nelly and Tim McGraw, “cause it’s all in my head.” That lyric best describes Colts QB Andrew Luck if you’re listening to Colts owner Jim Irsay and former Colts coach Tony Dungy. Do you think Luck wants to play for Irsay?

Winner: Steelers

 

Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins

The Redskins pulled off an impressive victory over the Seahawks in Seattle last week, and they could still make some noise in the NFC East. The Vikings will have a decision to make between QBs Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, and Sam Bradford in regards to who their starter will be, but with a defense that allows 282 yards per game, it might not matter much.

Winner: Vikings

 

Houston Texans at Los Angeles Rams

Say it loud: THE RAMS ARE FOR REAL. They’ve scored 30 or more points 5 times this year, and they’re 5-0 in those games. It’s a shame Texans rookie sensation QB Deshaun Watson is out for the season with a torn ACL, as this could’ve been a match-up featuring two young and now promising QBs in him and Jared Goff.

Winner: Rams

 

Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday denied Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal, meaning he will be suspended for at least this game against the Falcons. The Cowboys have a ferocious defensive line that will cause problems for the sputtering Falcons offense, and Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is more than capable without his troubled star RB.

Winner: Cowboys

 

New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers

The Giants are awful, and coach Ben McAdoo has supposedly lost the locker room with his constant player fines, throwing players under the bus, and tough practices. This is one of the few games remaining on the 49ers schedule they could win, but the 49ers are 0-9 for a reason, and 0-16 remains a real possibility.

Winner: Giants

 

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (Sunday Night Football)

Including the postseason, Patriots QB Tom Brady is 7-9 in his career against the Broncos. Fortunately for him, the Broncos offense can’t function to save their lives this season. They will trot out QB Brock Osweiler for the second straight week, and if you take Broncos head coach Vance Joseph’s word for it, Osweiler gives the Broncos confidence. Did he watch the beating his team took in Philadelphia last week?

Winner: Patriots

 

Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers (Monday Night Football)

People keep doubting the Panthers this season for some odd reason. It could be because Panthers QB Cam Newton compared his team to the Titanic when asked about the team trading away WR Kelvin Benjamin. If he wanted to use the Titanic metaphor correctly, he would’ve used it to describe the Dolphins’ playoff chances, as it’s a miracle this team is 4-4 despite being one of the worst ranked offenses in the league. QB Jay Cutler probably should’ve stayed retired.

Winner: Panthers