Movie Review – The Best of Enemies

Movie Review - The Best of EnemiesThis biopic is set in Durham, North Carolina, in 1971. First of all, the plot took me by surprise, given the magnitude of racial tension that still exists. This is not your normal racially-charged kind of black-versus-white-movie where tensions escalate, folks get hung, justice is never served, and everyone walks out the movie theater quiet and mad as hell. Nope, this one is completely different.

Durham is faced with a court-order to desegregate its schools when the black school becomes severely damaged, and those students need a place to learn. Unfortunately, the whites are against the blacks coming to their school, so a court-order is issued, and the town must figure out how to solve the problem themselves with little financial help from the State. The State calls upon the help of a Raleigh organizer known for his success in implementing charrettes.

char·rette /SHəˈret/ (wiki)
a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions.

During the span of the Durham charrette meetings, two co-chairs are selected who are the most vocal/influential in the white and black communities, respectively; then more community members discuss issues and concerns, a senate is developed of representatives that will vote on desegregating the schools overseen by the co-chairs, and an open-forum is held where everyone from the community are invited to witness the voting process.

Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) and C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell) are chosen as the co-chairs. C.P. is the president of the Ku Klux Klan and Ann is an aggressive and “by any means necessary” community activist. The two of them know of each other very well and the thought of working together for the charrette makes their blood boil, but they agree to co-chair for selfish motives. C.P. is a typical KKK member with a family and owns a gas station. He has a son with Down Syndrome that doesn’t live with the family, but in a nearby psychiatric center. While C.P. is a tough guy filled with hatred, his weakness and soft spot is his ill son. Despite the hatred Ann has for C.P., she uses this weak spot to forge their Best of Enemies relationship.

While the relationship isn’t like that seen in the movie Greenbook, Ann softens C.P.’s heart, one artery at a time. The dynamics of how their role in the charrette plays out is really interesting and thought-provoking. C.P. discovers the void in his life as a child that influenced his membership into the KKK may no longer be valid, but that epiphany comes with drastic consequences. However, his newfound friend comes to his rescue, yet again.

Overall, the acting was good. The plot kept a good pace and didn’t dilly-dally to get to the climax. Ann’s brass and sassy humor will have you laughing throughout the entire movie. In addition, Taraji’s acting was spot-on, right down to that walk (I chuckled a couple of times watching that walk).

On the other hand, the plot doesn’t provoke a need to discuss the issues with friends later on after seeing the movie. The movie will, however, stimulate some self-reflection on how we treat others. But, given that our country seems to be widely-divided right now and sometimes mirrors the 60s and 70s racial undertones, I’m not sure many people will leave the theater creating a charrette of their own, or singing Kumbayah. Wait for the credits at the end to discover how C.P. and Ann’s friendship evolved after the charrette experience.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: It was difficult finding good Peetimes for this well edited and well paced movie. At times, it seemed like the start of a scene would make a good Peetime, but then the plot thickened, adding value to the story. I would suggest suggest the 2nd Peetime.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Best of Enemies. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for thematic material, racial epithets, some violence and a suggestive reference
Genres: Biography, Drama, History, True life story

Movie Review – Hotel Mumbai – Unrelenting Violence

Movie Review - Hotel MumbaiHotel Mumbai is not an easy movie to watch; it’s brutal, and the killing is unrelenting. It hits the deck running and doesn’t let up for two hours. There were very short scenes of personal interaction — few and far between. Most of the movie was about chaotic running and killing, and many times the dialog was impossible to understand.

We get to know several guests and employees of the hotel, but still know very little about them — just enough to make us care if they can get out of this alive, and many don’t.

I was impressed with the writing and subtle foreshadowing of events to come — pay close attention to the one-second shot of a dropped shoe that becomes important to the plot.

I don’t know who the target audience is for Hotel Mumbai, because I don’t know why the movie was made in the first place.

Was it to pander to the ‘I just can’t get enough of murder and mayhem’ crowd out there? Or hopefully, to pay homage to those hotel employees who stayed behind and risked their lives to protect the guests? Whatever the reason, Hotel Mumbai certainly will impact the audience in some way.

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: This was the most difficult movie for Peetimes I’ve encountered in the 10 years I’ve been doing this. The pacing was incredibly fast, with almost nonstop action. There was absolutely no ‘down time’ in this film. Quite literally, the action started in the first 3 minutes and never let up. I chose 3 Peetimes that had the least amount of action and could be summed up in the synopsis. I’ve included one Emergency break at 1:34, and this one is only 3 minutes long.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Hotel Mumbai. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for disturbing violence throughout, bloody images, and language
Genres: Drama, History, Thriller

Movie Review – Captive State

Movie Review – The Predator

Movie Review – They Shall Not Grow Old

 

Movie Review - They Shall Not Grow OldWatching They Shall Not Grow Old was an experience unlike any I’ve had before. Knowing all these fresh-faced boys, who were initially so excited about going off to war were about to die: that was hard. Unlike most movies when the director yells ‘it’s a wrap,’ the actors go on to another movie: in this film there was no one to hear the director speak. They were all dead — even the voices we hear in the narration are all dead. Doesn’t that feel like a gut punch?

In my audience, there were men whom I’m sure were veterans of war. Are they the target audience? Maybe. [pullquote]But here’s the thing; the target audience should be everyone who’s old enough to know what the word war means.[/pullquote] This film should be on every history teacher’s syllabus. Also, there were a few young men and women in the audience who were there to admire the technical aspect of the revivification of the 100 year old footage.

[pullquote position=”right”]I will pass along this warning: if you have lost any family member to war, as I have — my brother, Danny, in Vietnam — this film will be beyond painful.[/pullquote] As I watched the camera pan over the trenches filled — yes filled — with bodies of both men and horses, it was difficult to determine if the body part was man or animal. I couldn’t help but wonder if Danny suffered the same sort of injuries. I did not sleep well last night.

Even with all the carnage, the saddest part of the film was when the narrators spoke of coming home, and the mistreatment they endured from people with the mentality of ‘just get over it’. [pullquote]PTSD was just a dot on horizon of mental health and it would take decades before it was recognized as a treatable mental health problem.[/pullquote] The WW1 vets took to alcohol and drugs, just as they do today.

The survivor’s guilt that came home with so many vets would eat away at them like a bad cancer. It’s a never ending source of anguish. I was a flight attendant flying out of New York during 9/11, so I speak with authority.

If you wonder why I can bring up so many negative aspects and still give this film an A+, allow me to explain. Any flick that can generate the emotions I felt, deserves an A+ and nothing less. This film is just another way of paying homage to the many men and women who have given their lives, so that today we citizens of America have the right of free speech…so we can bicker about a wall.

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: Before the film begins, we see a 3-4 minute exposition by Peter Jackson, who explains how he became involved in this project. You will start your timer AFTER this short clip, as the WB logo fades.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of They Shall Not Grow Old. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for disturbing war images
Genres: Documentary, History, War

Quiz – King Arthur and his Legend

King Arthur – the man, the myth, the king of Britain. Who doesn’t like a quiz about wizards, castles, magical swords, knights, ladies, kings, and queens? I’ve kept the questions at a middle school level, but no matter your grade, jump right in and enjoy this 10-question quiz!

Quiz – King Arthur

Hope you enjoyed this fun little test, and perhaps learned a few new things about the legendary Once and Future King of Camelot. Maybe you can share it with your teacher and show him/her how well you pay attention in class. 😉

Quiz – Political Career of Dick Cheney

How much do you really want to know about Vice President Dick Cheney? Try my quiz and maybe find out something new about the CEO of Halliburton. 

Dick Cheney

Thanks to all the Republicans who took this quiz, and to all the Democrats who just wanted to see Christian Bale. 🙂

Movie Review – Vice – Deeply Funny But Tonally Strange

Download the RunPee App free at Android or for iPhone

Movie Review – Vice – Deeply Funny But Tonally Strange

Movie Review - ViceI’ll start by saying that I did enjoy Vice a lot — however, there were some really funny lines, usually followed by some dramatic dialog, or blood-letting of some sort — and that’s where I have a problem. The humor at times was outrageous (wait till you see the scene with Alfred Molina as a waiter). I just about laughed myself silly. But the dramatic parts of the movie were beyond horrible. And that’s where I have a problem.

I enjoy a dramatic movie with tongue-in-cheek humor. James Gunn is a master at this craft, but I have some misgivings about Adam McKay’s roller coaster approach. One minute, you’re laughing hysterically, then just as you stop laughing, you’re hit with watching the Twin Towers come down. Not good; not good at all. Some people take medication and spend thousands on a shrink just to stay off that roller coaster. You need to find that happy medium, Adam.

The acting was top notch. Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld was great, and offered up the funniest lines, perfectly delivered. I wonder if Rumsfeld really has a sense of humor? Amy Adams gave a great performance as Lynne Cheney, but I would have expected nothing less from Ms. Adams. Sam Rockwell rocked as Bush Jr. It wasn’t the best impression of George I’ve seen, but he brought his A game. Christian Bale as Cheney was a stroke of genius. When his character broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience, I had chills.

Happy Holidays…and BTW, I don’t think this movie would make for a nice Christmas dinner conversation among mixed company.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: The 1st Peetime I have is a little later in the movie than I would like, but there just wasn’t a good 3-4 minute section prior to this that worked as a Peetime. The 1st Peetime is very good — around the middle of the movie. If you have an aversion to torture scenes, then the 2nd Peetime is custom-built for you.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Vice. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)


  Related RunPee Articles and Quizzes to Enjoy:

Best Movies to Watch Over President’s Day Weekend

Quiz – Political Career of Dick Cheney

Quiz – Steve Carell

Quiz – Amy Adams – Six Time Oscar Nominee & Vice

Movie Review – Lincoln – An A+ Presidential Biography

Movie Review – Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter

Movie Review – Mary Queen of Scots

Movie Review - Mary Queen of ScotsLet me begin by saying I’ve studied this beguiling queen for decades. I once spent a day at Holyrood Palace walking in the gardens where Mary once walked. I climbed the stone staircase Darnley and his henchmen rushed up to murder David Rizzio, and saw the chamber where Mary was entertaining her four Marys, and Rizzio — the place where the murderers dragged him from the room and stabbed him 56 times, ending his life.

One of my biggest gripes is when Hollywood takes a perfectly good piece of history and turns it into something barely recognizable. This didn’t happen with Mary Queen of Scots. There were a few minor inconsistencies, but for the most part the movie did follow John Guy’s book, Queen of Scots, except for the fact that Mary and Elizabeth never met face to face.

Giving Mary and Elizabeth a vis-à-vis scene may not be historically accurate but has been hypothesized to such an extent that it would a shame not to include it in a cinematic recreation . Beau Willimon did a fine job of approaching this movie with the attitude of ‘what if’. What if the two queens had met face to face, who would be the dominant figure? You can read 50 different books on the subject. Some lean toward Elizabeth and others Mary. (My money would be on Mary.)

The costumes, makeup, and hair were outstanding. The costumes were appropriate for the period, and I found it interesting that the Scottish court was dressed in more muted colors, reflective of their environment, but the English court dressed in more brilliant colors, reflective of the English gardens. The hair styles seemed to take on a life of their own, getting bigger and more outlandish as the movie progressed. I’d like to know how much of the budget went to hairspray.

The real heroes in the making of this movie are the cinematographers. This department went the extra mile to give us the most beautiful views of Scotland, which basically is anywhere you look. My son, AKA, RunPee Dan, my daughter in law, and I spent a great deal of time traveling through Scotland. On our visit to the Isle of Skye, we stayed at the Skye Walker Hostel, where one evening I actually watched a towel being slowly pushed off the shelf and onto the floor. Honestly, I did. In a conversation with the owner, I mentioned this event and he, so very casually, told me, “Happens all the time.”

I noticed that much of the film was shot in the Highlands, near the historic village of Glenco, where we spent a week trying to take in all the magnificent beauty. So thank you, cinematographers, for adding so much to the movie. <3

I want to give high praise to Saoirse Ronan for her interpretation of how the historic Mary conducted her life. Saoirse captured the essence of the queen flawlessly, and brought her to life. I’m pretty sure if Mary Queen of Scots were to see this movie, she’d be pleased. Likewise, Margot Robbie made a wonderful Queen Elizabeth, complete with small pox scars and thinning hair.

However, I honestly didn’t feel the male actors invested much of their talents in the movie, which went against the grain of how the men in both courts were misogynistic bullies. That misogyny was central to the story; not only were the two queens vying for control of of England and Scotland, they had to also do battle with the men of both courts.

I do recommend this movie even if you have only a passing knowledge of the subject — or if you just want to enjoy the scenery, you’ll be in for a good ride.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: This is RunPee Mom doing the Peetimes for this movie. Yes, I was near death’s door yesterday, however, I’ve been waiting for this movie for so long that I was able to pull myself out of bed, search for my cleanest dirty clothes, stuff my pockets full of tissues, call Uber, and off to the movies I went. I have 3 good Peetimes, evenly spaced apart, so I didn’t think I needed an emergency break. In the last 20 minutes of the movie, we’re moving quickly toward Mary’s execution, and also, the last 20 minutes includes the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth that can’t be missed.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Mary Queen of Scots. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Movie Review – Schindler’s List

Movie Review - Schindler's ListI honestly don’t know how to review this movie; everything that could be said has been said. I have nothing new to add nor take away.

So, I’ll just express my feelings I had after watching this masterpiece.

I watched Schindler’s List a few years after it came out, and some studio executive thought it would be festive to show the movie on television during the Easter weekend. I’m not kidding…Easter weekend.

After watching it the first time, I swore I would never watch it again. I had a real love-hate relationship with this movie. I loved that there were such good people living on planet Earth. There have been many Oskar Schindlers, who have seemingly popped out of nowhere, only to so something magnificent for the human race. Like Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, the Dali Lama, and Princess Diana, to name a few.

The ‘hate’ part of the relationship, of course, is seeing pure evil, not just in the form of Hitler, but so many other megalomaniacs who dared to impose their will on the rest of the world.

Have we learned anything from these events? Probably not. There are holocausts taking place right now in various hot spots all over the world. Just look at the mess in Syria.

After writing my quiz on Oskar Schindler, I felt that I needed to know more about this man. So it was back to Netflix to rewatch the movie. I now realize that this movie was not about the Hitler Regime, but about the microcosm of Oskar Schindler’s world during the war.

It would be tough to chose the best movie between Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. One was from the view of the Holocaust victims, and the other was from the view of our boys sent over to help free those victims. Basically it’s the same movie, just a few years apart.

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: This being a 3 hour movie, I felt that 5 Peetimes were in order. It was not a challenge to get 5, since there were some protracted scenes that could be easily summed up in the synopsis. Some of these are also Alert Peetimes for sensitive viewers.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Schindler’s List. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Fact or Fiction – First Man and Neil Armstrong

Hi. My name is Neil Armstrong, and that’s all you’re going to know about me.

First Man is a surprising film. It’s surprisingly devoid of excitement, I mean. Instead of a rousing tale of man’s journey to the moon, it focuses narrowly on life through the eyes of the taciturn and insular Neil Armstrong.

He’s a strange choice to be awarded the honor of the first person to set foot on another world. Buzz Aldrin was right behind him, but I guess being the second  man lacks cache. Even in Apollo 13, Jim Lovell and crew joke around, saying, “Armstrong? Really?”

Laying aside the fact that this man is very personal, I’d have thought he would have gone home and met with colleges, children, UN Summits, or otherwise directed his limelight to the service of NASA’s educational promotion. Nope. Not his gig.

This is a man that after an entire bladder-busting 2 & 1/2 hour movie, remains a cipher to the audience. Clearly, the had the Right Stuff to be a test pilot and astronaut, but had the personality of a Stoic.  And, well, the movie reflects this. Who was Armstrong? Did he even care about his wife…or the moon, even? All I can tell is he deeply loved his daughter, who sadly died as a toddler from brain cancer.

First Man spoilers ahead!

If you’ve seen the film, you’re probably wondering about Karen’s baby bracelet. Did he leave it on the moon? Is it still there, a testament to loving and grieving and family? It’s been a topic of some speculation. [pullquote]It’s known Armstrong deviated a bit from his walk plan, and stood over the Little West Crater for a few minutes. [/pullquote]The movie chooses to show him definitively tossing the precious bracelet into the crater. If he did this, I hope he was able to excoriate some of his demons and find a measure of personal peace. Because, well, walking on the FREAKING moon seemed, to him, a casual matter. Compare his still introspection on the Sea of Tranquility, versus Aldrin hopping joyfully along the surface. Sometimes I think singularly amazing moments are wasted on some people.  I don’t dislike Armstrong, but have to still wonder, like Lovell and crew:  WHY HIM?

So. Does First Man hew closely to what we do know of Armstrong’s life and vision? This excellent article from History Vs Hollywood covers the issue in a very readable fashion — no need for me to repeat it here.

[pullquote position=”right”]Suffice to say the director kept the biography as rigorously accurate as possible. We can feel the authenticity and sincerity bursting through the film. [/pullquote]The science was spot on, but the characterizations of the astronauts were a bit one-sided (ie — how Armstrong saw them), making for a possibly unreliable narrator. For example, Aldrin comes across as a somewhat offensive jerk in the film. Was he really? I imagine these things are in the eye of the beholder.

But back to the bracelet commentary — James Hanson, author of Armstrong’s autobiography First Man, reports that after many hours of personally interviewing him, he’s sure Armstrong left something behind.  He never said what, or admitted to it, but it’s known he did report his personal manifest list as missing to NASA. Then, he later donated his manifest to Purdue University, so it wasn’t so missing after all. There’s a lineage for astronauts leaving things behind. According to this article:

“For instance, Charlie Duke, who in 1972 became the tenth person to walk on the moon, left a photo of his family there, according to Singer. Buzz Aldrin brought a pouch that belonged to the Apollo 1 astronauts as a memorial to them.”

Armstrong’s manifest will be sealed until 2020, so we don’t have too long to know if Karen’s bracelet was on the list. [pullquote]His family hopes and believes he did leave that memento behind. We’ll see. It seems like a logical choice to me. But it did make for a nice bookmark to the movie, either way.[/pullquote]

Last thoughts for First Man: It doesn’t feel like a prequel to the (IMO) far superior Apollo 13 at all: keep in mind it’s NOT an adventure film. There are exciting moments for sure, but most of the runtime is silent and clouded with grief. I did enjoy the space scenes, what we got of them. But we also had to endure a lot of sorrow, silence, and unpleasantness between the space action. That might have highlighted the power of the rocket scenes, which were undeniably cool. I wish the movie had more of that powerful imagery.

Should you see First Man in the theater? I saw it in IMAX, which made the rocket scenes rumble, and the quiet scenes more tense. If you’re a real fan of NASA and the space program, it’s a must-see,  just to experience it properly. For everyone else, wait for the DVD.

 

Quiz – Queen Elizabeth I

The story of Queen Elizabeth l is an inspiration for women determined to make their own path through life. She possessed strength, wisdom, and courage, something normally not often seen in women during the time of her reign.

We’ve had a few movies over the years about Elizabeth, and those are worth rewatching to get ready for the upcoming  Mary Queen of Scotts (both ladies figure prominently in this film).

So, how much do you know about this amazing woman?

Queen Elizabeth l

How much do you know about Queen Elizabeth l? 

Queen Elizabeth’s life was filled with danger; there seemed to always be one conspiracy or another to remove her from the throne. She even had to face the possibility that her sister, Mary l, would have her executed — just because Elizabeth embraced the Protestant religion. History has shown us that Mary was willing to dispose of anyone who dared to practiced this new religion. Hence the name, Bloody Mary. (I bet you didn’t know that.)

Poor Elizabeth’s family was more dysfunctional than anything you’ll see on Desperate Housewives, and that’s a fact.