The Post: Movie Man Jackson

Whether in a relationship, a job, or in matters of politics and America, power should never go unchecked. The Washington Post is in a little bit of a transitional period, led by publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), the first female publisher of a major newspaper. Graham—as does lead editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks)—wants “The Post” to be more than a local newspaper. She doesn’t command much faith in her visions, mainly because she’s a woman in a man’s world.

Opportunity does knock, however, when secrets regarding the US Government’s stance on the Vietnam War are leaked initially via the New York Times by way of the “Pentagon Papers.” Government is none too happy about it, and chooses to shut down the story before it gets too in-depth. They’re threatening criminal action if anyone else decides to run with it, but this is something that the American populace needs to know. Commence the battle between free press and the government.

Officially ending the unofficial real-life heroic figure(s) trilogy that director Steven Spielberg has lent his talents to in recent years starting with 2012’s Lincoln and 2015’s Bridge of Spies is his latest in The Post. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: It is impossible to discuss or think about The Post without thinking about our current everyday bizarre political world, but it is the truth. Spielberg has made something that honors the past, but is more so focused on preventing the future.

A fast production schedule rarely benefits a movie, but with Spielberg overseeing just about everything, it’s not likely we’d be getting a better cut with additional prep time. But, it is still impressive at just how well The Post comes out, showing no signs of a rushed timeline. The standard of excellence we’ve become accustomed to from Steven is still present, displaying a tight and historically accurate-looking presentation that rarely feels stagy or fake. Longtime legendary collaborators in cinematographer Janusz Kamiński and composer John Williams assist to make The Post one of the year’s best, technically.

Hard to find any egregious faults with The Post, if any. It’s a good movie that fits right into the season, with a solid script that seems to be very rooted into reality penned by debut feature writer Liz Hannah. One can feel the passion she has for this story and the character that is Katharine Graham. But, watching The Post is more akin to viewing an important, yet dry, history lesson more so than a compelling silver screen feature, even with the obvious allusions to what’s going on now. One that is respected for the overall craftsmanship and message rather than possessing the ability to become enamored with what is on screen.

Having Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks pretty much makes a film good by default, and no surprise, they’re excellent here. The first ever on-screen pairing between two of the greatest to ever do it proves fruitful, with the duo occasionally sharing scenes in the same location. Streep sells the fear, yet determination of trying to brave a male-dominated workforce, and Hanks sells the brazen determination of an editor trying to get to the bottom of a story the world needs, sleep be damned. Going past the big named twosome, The Post is planted with maybe not big, but well-respected, cast members in Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, Sarah Paulson, Matthew Rhys, Tracy Letts, Alison Brie, and Bruce Greenfield who all blend in and chew scenery when needed.

Hot off the presses and fast-tracked ever since the results of that November 8th, 2016 day crystallized, The Post doubles as a timely historical piece and an obvious Oscar contender.

B

Photo credits go to IMDB.com, thefilmstage.com, esquire.com, and vogue.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

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How to be Single: Movie Man Jackson

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Did Hollywood really need to make a movie about How to Be Single? They could have just came to me! In modern day New York City, finding companionship is hard. After four years of being in a college relationship, Alice (Dakota Johnson) feels the need to break up with her boyfriend, Josh (Nicholas Braun) upon graduation—temporarily. Her reason, being, that she needs to figure out some things in the Big Apple. Her paralegal job introduces her to a new friend named Robin (Rebel Wilson), who has no problems being a single lady.

Alice’s older sister Meg (Leslie Mann), also single, is all about her career as a doctor, having no desire to conform to society’s idea of having offspring at a certain age. But, she does begin to get an itch to have a baby after a routine patient delivery. And even Lucy (Alison Brie), a person who makes dating apps, has issues with finding a companion. Being single can be tough, but it also can be very eye-opening.

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Yours truly probably isn’t in the target demographic that How to Be Single, a film based off of a novel with the same name, is aiming to hit. It kind of feels like a prolonged episode of Sex in the City. Its release comes at a good time, with it being Valentine’s Day weekend, drawing in people that might latch on to it who are single simply because of its title. It’s an average ensemble piece rom-com that has similar issues to most rom-coms, with the occasional solid positive here and there.

Let’s start with some of the positives. It really isn’t saying much, but How to Be Single does feature a little more substance than many other ensemble romance-comedies. A high-brow analysis this isn’t, but it is a fairly interesting look at being single featuring a whole cast of characters who are single, instead of just the one story thread that often appears in these types of movies amid others. Although featuring many characters, the story connector is the same and makes it easy to follow along. Also, though an African-American male and not a Caucasian female (last time checked at least), still being currently single and around the general age of the lead characters, I can connect somewhat to what the main characters experience. Very possible that point alone plays into the fact of me finding some enjoyment in this.

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Directing-wise, this isn’t too bad either.  Christian Ditter brings some energy and some mild flair behind the camera with some nice lighting and solid song choices that match the story. Generally, he’s able to keep the movie moving at a solid pace, though at times, his reliance to jump ahead in time for a few months comes at the expense of character and true relationship development.

And honestly, it is the characters that How to Be Single gets mostly wrong. For a movie whose story seems to be pretty focused on reality and finding love in the 21st century, it’s odd as to why the characters could not be written with more layers. The obvious person that comes to mind first is Rebel Wilson, basically being Rebel Wilson throughout. If you find her funny, HtBS is going to be a riot. If not (like yours truly), this can be a chore sometimes as the comedy with her at the forefront never really lands.

Dakota Johnson is a fine actress, but it is hard to really feel anything for her Alice as she repeatedly makes the same mistakes. I understand that that is sort of the point, but her eventual awakening feels more predetermined, rather than earned. It sort of works, but it doesn’t hit emotionally as intended. The women aren’t the only ones who can feel fake. The lead male, Tom, played by Anders Holm, is just way too cartoonish to take seriously.

There’s a missed opportunity for Alison Brie, who appears in the marketing substantially but is clearly the fourth wheel after things get going. She’s off her kilter a tad too much and not exactly grounded, but kind of representative of some people finding love online nowadays. Leslie Mann’s character storyline is probably the most fulfilling, though her character can be a bit much with her “freneticness” and such.

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Credit where credit’s due. How to Be Single gets a rose or two for not being completely predictable, having a semi-interesting story about the difficulties of love, and subverting a few rom-com staples. However, it falls short of getting a full bouquet due to a majority of the cast of of characters showing why they deserve to be single.

Grade: C

Photo credits go to moviefone.com, YouTube.com, and aroundmovies.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

Get Hard: Movie Man Jackson

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“No, you made me hard!”

Let’s Go to Prison, or at least prepare to do so. Big time businessman James King (Will Ferrell) has it all: The money, the mansion, the sexpot fiance (Alison Brie), and the support of his soon-to-be wife’s father Martin (Craig T. Nelson), who is also his boss. Simply, he is living life like a king.

That is, until the feds come to his home at an engagement party to arrest him on counts of fraud and embezzlement. James is going into lockup, but not at one of these home-away-from home type joints like Martha Stewart was in. He is being sentenced to do his bid in San Quentin, one of the worst, if not the worst, prisons to do time in. Given 30 days to get his stuff in order, James needs to learn how to survive inside, to Get Hard for what is in store. Where does he turn to? His car washer Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), because statistics have taught James that one in three black men have served or are serving time, and Darnell must be one of them. Taking James’ stupidity and exploiting it for financial gain, Darnell agrees to prep him, despite having never been incarcerated.

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The trailers for Get Hard should easily give one an idea as to what the movie is going to consist of, which are laughs primarily based around racism (overt and covert), hip-hop culture, and an endless barrage of male sexual organ jokes. Even without seeing the trailers, just seeing the title and the two stars headlining this movie probably gives the idea as well. Funny in places but not consistently for yours truly, Get Hard is a middling black-white comedy.

Even with its blunt title, in a alternate universe it isn’t hard to envision this comedy saying a little bit more than it ultimately does about race in society, the Horatio Alger myth, and things of that nature. For the first 15 or so minutes, this “analysis,” if you will, looks like it may happen. Director Etan Cohen, not to be confused with Ethan Coen, is very clear to point out the haves and have nots, and the way he shoots the opening of the movie with the contrasting locales of inner-city LA and Bel-Air makes it seem desperately like he wants to say something substantial about issues affecting the world today. But something is missing, something like Trading Places, like the brilliant Wesley Morris alludes to, has. And, as Dan the Man states, it is hard to put a finger to say what exactly it should be doing, but the feeling cannot be shook that it wants to say more, but perhaps doesn’t know how.

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All of this is to say that Get Hard ends up feeling stretched out with the story as it is, which until the last 20 minutes in which it transforms into a buddy cop-ish affair, is essentially Hart’s character running Farrell’s character through various situations he is likely to see in prison, from rape defense to riots. Some are funnier than others, but a few of the moments run too long.

There’s a fine line between tolerable and overkill, and scenes that reach the overkill stage include Hart impersonating a Black, Hispanic, and gay prison member for what seems like an eternity, and a mission where Ferrell’s James has to learn how to perform fellatio in a bathroom stall. If cut in half, these comedic scenes may have had more potency. Instead, they just become awkward the longer they go on.

The writing and scene structure could use some work, but Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart deserve credit for making it work the best they can. Sometimes making it work here means going off of the cuff and playing off of each other. Initially, I had a skepticism about whether Hart and Ferrell would work together, and I can’t definitely say why I felt this way. Truth be told, the two meld nicely, and future collaborations can be imagined. Sure, there are the aforementioned times where the seemingly unscripted dialogue goes on too long, and some one-liners are painfully weak, but that isn’t an indictment on how well they work together. Slightly off-tangent, but for whatever reason, there’s something about Ferrell and the certain looks he gives off that still manages to get some laughs after all of these years.

It is up to Ferrell and Hart to carry this, but for the short time he is on screen, rapper T.I. is a nice supplement to the duo. He’s the stereotypical drug dealer and gang banger as Russell, which, based on T.I.’s real life upbringing, is hardly a stretch. But, to paraphrase Ferrell’s character’s when describing Russell to Hart’s character, “he is just so damn charismatic.” Craig T. Nelson and Alison Brie are present as well, but aside from a opening scene, Brie is forgotten and Nelson could have been played by anyone.

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As stated before, there’s an alternate universe where Get Hard uses its two stars to make a wonderful, hilarious satire on society and its inequality problems. There’s also an alternate universe where Get Hard is completely abysmal. In this universe, Get Hard is an alright comedy that isn’t limp, but not a raging stiff either. Consider it a semi.

Grade: C-

Photo credits go to upi.com, aroundmovies.com, and theonlinelist.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson.