November 18th, 2015 — 7:43am
This is an excellent film that should score a touchdown on several counts. Significantly, it may put an unwavering light on the brain damage that football brings about due to the repeated slamming of the brain in its fluid container inside the skull, which is so characteristic of our highly popular American sport. The viewers of this film will take in this awareness in the course of this most dramatic presentation. The audience will also witness an outstanding sensitive performance by Will Smith who plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the true to life Pittsburgh pathologist who discovered and named Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy as a result of performing autopsies on three former professional football players who died at a young age. Their death was often preceded by memory difficulties, mood alterations which included depression and labile mood which often led to out of control behavior and even suicide.
Will Smith deserves Oscar consideration as he brought to life the persona of this brilliant Nigerian born doctor who had numerous degrees but yet was sensitive to his deceased patients and felt compelled to be sure that their true story was told. He worked in a Pittsburgh morgue under the supervision and support of famed pathologist, Dr. Cyril Wecht who was played very well by Albert Brooks. Wecht was portrayed as quite wise yet with a smidgen of comic undertones, which made him quite warm and believable. Dr. Julian Bailes (Alec Baldwin) who was a former loyal NFL team doctor who once he appreciated the solidity of Dr. Omalu’s discovery, stood by him in his confrontations with the NFL.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw sensitively portrayed Dr. Omalu’s girlfriend, who became his wife. The film may have taken on a little too much unnecessary poetic license in at least one place by showing Dr. Omalu’s wife being harassed by some people following her while she was driving alone in her car, which led to her having a miscarriage. Director/Writer Peter Landesman in response to MB’s question admitted that this incident shown in the movie was not exactly what happened. He said, it was meant to symbolize and condense the real harassment that Dr. Omalu and his new wife had from the many football fans in his community when some of them realized that the essence of professional football was being challenged by this one unknown doctor who documented and published scientific articles backing up his findings which challenged the safety of football at all levels from the NFL down through college, high school and even at the youngest level.
We know that ultimately lawsuits were brought against the NFL and were settled for large sums of money with the caveat that the NFL does not have to acknowledge how long they knew about the possibility of brain damage in the players. Practices have since been adopted to take players out of the game who show signs of head injury. However, it has been estimated that at least one-quarter of professional football players will develop evidence of brain damage. We do not know what the full extent of these injuries will be especially in high school and college players or even at the most junior level who are playing the sport.
The authenticity of this film is confirmed by the fact that the real Dr. Omalu and Dr. Cyril Wecht are consultants to the movie. There was one line in the film, which states that if 10% of parents hold back their children from playing football, it could destroy football as the big time multibillion-dollar sport that it is today. We don’t know if that statistic is true. We also don’t know if this film will get wide enough distribution to make this impact. The filmmakers wondered if the NFL would use their influence to stop the film from being advertised during NFL TV games. Apparently, that is not going to be the case. So the general public is going to get a chance to learn about this outstanding movie and parents as well as young people will decide if the youth of America is going to play this game knowing what they know about concussions, brain trauma and aftermath of these events. (2015)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History, Sport
February 7th, 2015 — 6:52am
Still Alice- rm We were moved to see film because of all the pre Academy Award hype about the performance of Julianne Moore. After seeing this film we agree that she did a tremendous job playing a college professor who has Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease and probably deserves an Oscar. The overall movie disappointed us. Alice Howland ( Ms. Moore) is happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who is forgetting words and having memory lapses. She receives a diagnosis of this relatively rare disease which inevitably has a fairly rapid downhill course. Ms. Moore’s performance is nuanced and her struggle is very painful and easy to empathize with. Her facial expressions convey what we imagine are her internal feelings. Her eyes portray her fear and then the diminished attention and intellectual ability. It is a remarkable performance. It is helped by her gradual change in makeup and hair appearance. The screenplay which was written by director Richard Glatzer is based on novel by Lisa Genova, was focused almost completely on Alice despite having an excellent cast and potential story lines that could have made this in our opinion a much better movie. We learn in this film that this is an inherited disease and once you have the gene you will inevitably get the disease. It is possible to do genetic testing and that is offered to her three children played by Kristin Stewart, Shane McRae and Hunter Parrish. One daughter declined to be tested, one son tested negative and a third daughter who was trying to become pregnant tested positive. We are not shown anything about their struggle and their decision process, which is one of the major areas of ethical discussions in the world of modern genetics. Her husband is played by Alec Baldwin, who in our opinion turns in an uncharacteristically bland performance. Perhaps again it is the choice of the screenwriter/director to keep the main focus on Ms. Moore. This may be why we don’t see the internal struggle of the husband and his remarkable decision in what would seem to be the final phase of his wife’s illness, to decide to take a job out of town. It could have been a tour de force if we could more fully appreciate what this family was going through as well as the devastation conveyed so well by Ms. Moore. (2015)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama
August 4th, 2013 — 5:24pm
*** Blue Jasmine rm – This is another Woody Allen movie which is a study of two sisters. It is an in depth character analysis but yet we never really understand the origins of their personality development. Jasmine (Kate Blanchett) who gave up her last year of college to marry the man of her dreams . He is quite wealthy , seemingly devoted to her, gives her everything she could ever desire from clothes, beautiful home, vacations and even a son from another marriage who eventually goes to Harvard. Hal is a smooth and slick as Alec Baldwin who actually plays him but is not who he seems to be (think a younger Bernie Madoff). Her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) is a San Francisco waitress, down to earth with two young children who is married to Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) when we meet her. They visit Hal and Jasmine in their luxurious New York City apartment and make the mistake of asking for advice from Hal on how to handle their $200,000 lottery bonanza. Circumstances that you can probably imagine reverse Jasmine’s good life and she now has to live with her sister in a cramped San Francisco apartment where we meet divorced Ginger’s now boyfriend Chili (Bobby Carnnavale). All these characters are very compelling and interesting including Al (Louis C.K.) who has a quick fling with Ginger The story shows the desperate, superficiality of Jasmine’s character and many of women who surrounded her and similarly although to a lesser degree presents her sister as eager, if not desperate to latch on to a man. But if Allen is showing us a weak image of woman, there is not much to say for all the men in the story. They are lying, cheating, crying, groping or phony. However, Woody Allen who wrote and directed this movie gets your attention and holds it. The casting, as usual, is near perfect. The dialog draws you into the characters. He used flashbacks to effectively tell the story so you ultimately understand all the nuances. Allen as a writer gets away with using several coincidences to develop his story line such as characters just happen to witness some indiscretion in a busy city street or just happens to bump into somebody who says something that changes everything. Nevertheless, he gets great performances from the actors including what we think could be Oscar nods for Kate Blanchett and maybe Ginger Hawkins. Chalk this one up to ano ther Woody Allen movie worth seeing. (2013)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama
September 5th, 2010 — 11:31pm
* * * *
Lymelife – sp – This is an Independent film put together by two brothers who grew up in Long Island and wanted to show the nature of relationships between people that they had observed in their youth in the 70s and early 80s. They were able to put together an outstanding cast of Alec Baldwin, Jill Hennessy, Timothy Hutton, Cynthia Nixon, Emma Roberts and Culkin brothers Rory and Kiernan. They all turned in extremely fine performances (with a low budget and brief time to shoot) It is directed by Derrick Martini, one of the brothers, who wrote the screenplay. Not surprising he most effectively captured the budding romantic relationship of the young teenagers in the film whom he best understood and this makes the film worth seeing. 2009
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama
January 16th, 2010 — 2:55am
* * * *
It’s Complicated – rm – Nancy Meyers , the writer and director of this film lives up to her reputation as the person who can connect with women over 40 and all those that know and care about her. Meryl Streep continues her streak as one of the most prolific and talented big name actresses on today’s screen , as she nails the role of a 50 something women who after 10 years of divorce has an affair with her ex-husband. She is appealing, sexy, intelligent, funny and poignant. The chemistry with her three children ( high school, graduating college and engaged to a great guy) is perfect. It is best described, as at one point she doesn’t take the suggestion to not answer her cell phone by saying, “ I have to answer the phone, I have three children.” Alec Baldwin, as the ex-husband, is a self centered successful attorney who married a young women half his age and now regrets it. His rekindled attraction to his ex-wife seems very real although he does over do it as the lout who wants one more chance. He can be funny and comedy is an important part of the film. Steve Martin who is a great comedian takes the low key role as the potential new boy friend for Streep and is much more sweet and kind than funny. The bottom line is that this movie is a great couples film especially for the over 40 crowd and deserves to be seen. (2009)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama
January 16th, 2010 — 1:56am
* * * *
Ghosts of Mississippi – nf – Michael stumbled on this movie on HBO which is available on Netflix. Initially I thought it was another Law & Order or Cold Case TV program. I may have seen before but am very glad I came across it. This 1996 stunning movie directed by Rob Reiner is the story of the persistence of a Jackson Mississippi Assistant District Attorney, played by Alec Baldwin, to retry white supremacist Bryon De La Beckwith played by James Woods who received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of this despicable man who assassinated civil rights activist Medgar Evers in 1963. Whoopie Goldberg plays Myrlie Evers the widow who never gave up her quest to see justice served for this crime and actually was a consultant for this film. The cast also included James Nelson, William Macy and Virginia Madsen. The film was made two years after the front-page courtroom drama, which rectified the failure of two previous trials 30 years previously. It is a reminder of the racism, which existed in the south, at that time and how there are persistent remnants of it. But it also showed how there was change in an evolving south and in our justice system. The American Film Institute in 2008 chose the courtroom scene to be included in its all time list of best courtroom movie scenes. The entire film should be mandatory viewing for new law graduates and probably even for all high school students. The movie certainly touched my emotions. (1996)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama