The Monuments Men (2014)

the monuments menReleased: February 7, 2014. Directed by: George Clooney. Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray. Runtime: 118 min.

“The Monuments Men” follows a platoon of unlikely heroes at the end of the Second World War who are tasked with retrieving art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It’s a story about not letting culture die, because if all of this art is to be destroyed, that’s one less piece of history to state that the culture that made it existed.

I think this raises cool cultural ideas because history is an interesting thing, especially seeing and knowing how a culture evolves over time. I’m sure that’s what inspired the real life characters to be a part of this platoon. It’s an educational feature because I hadn’t realized that the Nazi’s stole so much art. The lengths these generically developed characters went through to try to get the art back makes for an okay film.

It’s billed as an action-drama but there’s a limited amount of action throughout, and only a few brief exchanges of artillery, which I find to be a defining trait for any war film. Since that is the case, any action fans out there who are looking for a good war movie with lots of action should seek entertainment elsewhere with the gritty “Lone Survivor.” That one at least has good characters, too. The drama’s okay when it’s happening, but there’s a lot of comedy so its sometimes goofy tone and sometimes serious tone is what makes this have a poor tonal balance.

Director George Clooney is just too eager to please with this one, because he adds so much funny banter it makes many scenes feel quite goofy. I’m one for comic relief in dramas, but the comedy takes too much precedence here for a film billed as a wartime drama, and there are even a few scenes that don’t complement the story, and could just be seen as mere opportunities for the actors to remind us that they can be funny every once in awhile. The scenes are funny, but it leaves me thinking “Well, it might have been funny, but how pointless was that?” There is also one scene that’s pointless, but not that funny, it just feels hollow. Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), who seems to be Viktor Stahl’s secretary. Stahl is one of the Nazis responsible for hiding the art, and when Claire spots him moving the art to another location via a train, she says “I see you Stahl!” He looks at her, hops on the train and starts shooting at her as it’s going along. Well, he’s not going to hit her at the distance they are from each other; so is he trying to be menacing, or is he just trying to lighten his gun for no apparent reason?

At least the humour hits when it isn’t too predictable, and they have to spice up a plot so simplistic somehow, if there’s not much action going on and if the characters aren’t the best overall. It’s difficult to remember what exactly their role is within the platoon, but they are introduced at the beginning of the film at their work – in one of those early-on recruiting sequences. Clooney is simply the leader of the platoon, the Lieutenant. Hugh Bonneville portrays a man named Donald Jeffries, who gets the most character development as a recovering alcoholic. Matt Damon portrays a painter who is best characterized as a man who cannot speak French to save his life, as the French person he speaks to tells him to speak in English after two sentences.

As previously mentioned, Cate Blanchett’s Claire is Stahl’s secretary, and also a valuable intelligence source. Bill Murray portrays an architect but really only gets depicted as a guy who likes to tease Bob Balaban, who looked like he was directing a stage play in his recruiting scene where George Clooney just sits behind him smiling. John Goodman portrays Walter Garfield, a sculptor who might as well just be the Funny Guy. Jean Dujardin plays a character I’d just refer to as The Guy Who Can Actually Speak French. The cast does their best because they all do get a few laughs in, and it’s quite an ensemble; but when their characters are generic like this, it’s hard not to think that a certain few (Clooney and Damon in particular) are surprisingly phoning in their performances.

To me, this feels like a film with a clear A to B plot. Only a few surprises, a few brief action scenes, but enough humour to keep viewers mildly entertained throughout. The tonal choice to be serious at times, and often too goofy, is fatal. I don’t know if Clooney intended to make this part caper part wartime drama feel as goofy with its humour as “National Treasure” (a fun movie) at times, but that’s the result. Compared to his [Clooney’s] other works as a director, this is disappointingly sub-par.

Score55/100

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Red State (2011)

Red StateReleased: September 29, 2011. Directed by: Kevin Smith. Starring: Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman. Runtime: 88 min.

I must give respect writer/director Kevin Smith for giving us something we haven’t seen from him before. There’s only one laugh in the entire movie. It’s a nice change of pace for him, but not a great film.

Set in Middle America, Jarod (Kyle Gallner) invites two of his best friends, Randy (Ronnie Connell) and Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun) to have a foursome with an older woman he met through a dating site. Instead of having a good time, they fall onto the family church of Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), a religious zealot who has a much more sinister agenda.

I also respect that this is a movie I wasn’t really expecting – because it’s certainly not one’s run-of-the-mill action-horror flick. It also realistically portrays religious fantacism, in a particularly shocking way in one scene – but when Cooper simply preaches his beliefs down his family’s throats (and our throats, too, in turn) it’s the same familiar Bible quoting. I have my own religious beliefs – but I’m not one to stand on the lawn of a church during a funeral to protest homosexuality.

Things take a turn halfway through when intelligent cops actually show up (a rarity for horror flicks, no less) on a lead of the compound holding weapons that violate the National Firearms Act. These occurrences change the film’s tone from subtle horror to a bit of full-out action, and that isn’t the worst thing in the world because with that we get another intense performance from John Goodman. Viewers also get to see Michael Parks act nucking futs, and Nicholas Braun’s fear of the situation in one scene is particularly impressive.

There’s some analysis of repercussions of taking orders and not taking orders from higher powers (I’m talking about one’s boss in this case!), as well as some thoughts on terrorism. The religious fanatics are a little cuckoo and some of the occurrences are disappointing; leading me to not really care about the characters any more, but at least there’s some humanity within the religious family. It’s cool that some of the focus is taken away from the young teens who were the stars at the beginning, but surprising. But that’s what we look for in films – surprises. That’s what makes “Red State” only a decent watch. An unpleasant surprise is that this feels much more like an action film than a horror film, but it’s still not a waste of time; and one thing is certain: It makes me a bit more cautious of Craigslist, at least if there are any religious fanatics in my area.

Score63/100

Recap of June’s Theatrical Releases

I saw six out of the nine major theatrical releases of June. I still plan on seeing the following from the month of June, in alphabetical order: “Berberian Sound Studio”, “The Bling Ring”, “Byzantium”, “The Internship”, “Maniac”, “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Song for Marion”, “Syrup” (because I love Brittany Snow), “Violet & Daisy”, White House Down”. Considering that the lowest score of June’s new releases was 50 out of 100 (surprisingly “awarded” to “Man of Steel”), it was hardly a bad month for movies. Here’s the ranking of the June’s releases from best to worst, with a blurb from each of my reviews.

This is the End (6/12)

This is the End (6/12) [My review]

“This is an insanely funny movie. Ridiculous, yes, but a sure blast if there ever was one. It’s all good old-fashioned, self-aware bliss. This just shows that a comedy about hanging out with one’s best buds could be a real gem to the genre. Adam Sandler could take quite a few pointers from this comedy.” 91/100. This was my fourth most anticipated movie of June, and it exceeded expectations, and it’s currently my favourite movie of the year thus far. 

IMDb Score: 7.9/10Rotten Tomatoes Critics: 7/10RT Audience: 8/10.

Monsters University (6/21)

Monsters University (6/21) [My review]

“I will always cherish this fantastic film. I will always watch this with a big smile on my face. This is an impressive prequel to “Monsters, Inc.”, and an impressive Pixar movie.” 90/100. This was my most anticipated movie of June, and it truly satisfied.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10RTC: 6.7/10; RTA: 8.4/10.

World War Z (6/21)

World War Z (6/21) [My review]

“The story’s a good one, as far as ‘find the cure’ movies go. Since I have not read the book, I cannot comment on any similarities or big differences. All I can say is, it’s a story that plays well on the screen. I like that Drew Goddard has a hand in the screenplay; because he has talent. It’s a traditional, but very enjoyable ‘find the cure’ type of film.” 75/100. This was my tenth most anticipated movie of June, so it really impressed. 

IMDb Score: 7.3/10RTC: 6.2/10RTA: 7.6/10.

The Heat (6/28)

The Heat (6/28) [My review]

“The humour is raunchy as hell, but usually funny as hell. When I wasn’t laughing at the jokes, I was at least smirking a little. When it isn’t being hilarious, the likeable chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy really carries it along. The movie balances out to a fun, predictable, but hysterical time at the movies.” 75/100. This was my seventh most anticipated movie of June, so it did satisfy. 

IMDb Score: 7.1/10RTC: 6.0/10; RTA: 8.0/10.

The Purge (6/7)

The Purge (6/7) [My review]

“The concept helps make this movie memorable. However, this rushed home invasion flick/intriguing social commentary ends up being incredibly average. It’s disappointing, and while it has some worthwhile menacing villains, it’s the latest movie to the Great Concept, Poor Execution category.” 57/100. This was my third most anticipated movie of June, so it was truly disappointing.

IMDb Score: 5.6/10; RTC: 5.1/10; RTA: 6.0/10.

Man of Steel (6/14)

Man of Steel (6/14) [My review]

“I do not appreciate the constant changes in tone throughout the feature. It goes from big, stupid action to character-driven drama that feels real. It becomes bothersome quickly, and it does not make for effective storytelling.” 50/100. This was my second most anticipated movie of June, so it was a big let-down.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10; RTC: 6.3/10RTA: 8.0.

Here are some statistics: 

IMDb Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.9), 2. “Man of Steel” (7.8), 2. “Monsters University” (7.8), 4. “World War Z” (7.3), 5. “The Heat” (7.1), 6. “The Purge” (5.6). Average score: 7.25/10. 

RT Critics Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.0), 2. “Monsters University” (6.7), 3. “Man of Steel” (6.3), 4. “World War Z” (6.2), 5. “The Heat” (6.0), “The Purge” (5.1). Average score: 6.21/10. 

RT Audience Ranking: 1. “Monsters University” (8.4), 2. “The Heat” (8.0), 2. “Man of Steel” (8.0), 2. “This is the End” (8.0), 5. “World War Z” (7.6), 6. “The Purge” (6.0). Average score: 7.66/10.

My Average score: 73/100. (Adjusted [excluding lowest grade]: 77.6/100.)

What movies did you enjoy out of June’s releases, and which ones did you hate? There were a total six votes in my Most Anticipated Movies of June poll (4 to “Man of Steel”, 1 to “This is the End”, and 1 to “Monsters University”, which was my vote). Did your most anticipated movie satisfy or disappoint the hell out of you? Let me know in the comments!

Also: I’ll be posting my Best of the Year So Far article sometime this weekend or early next week. Stay tuned! 

 

Monsters University (2013)

Monsters UniversityRelease Date: June 21, 2013

Director: Dan Scanlon

Stars: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi

Runtime: 110 min

Pixar is one of this century’s most consistent studios; but they are fallible. I’ve seen 10 out of 14 of their movies. Cars 2 is apparently the runt of the litter, and I haven’t seen that, or the original. Brave (my review) is a good animated movie, but I’m not so big on the story and I haven’t (nor has anyone else, I doubt) forgiven it for winning that Oscar for Best Animated Feature yet. Monsters University is the fourteenth film out of Pixar’s creative cannon, and their first prequel.

From the moment Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) and James P. Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman) met, they couldn’t stand each other. Monsters University brings us a look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley when they weren’t exactly two peas in a pod.

Many people, mostly critics, have set their expectations for Pixar movies too high after the release of Toy Story 3. They’re a studio, they’re going to make a mistake. Their movies won’t be near-perfect or beloved each time. Deal with it. I’m here to tell you that this time around, Monsters University is deserving of being called one of Pixar’s best movies in years. I’m sure it will become a classic one day. It’s a great animated movie and a great Pixar movie. I’m not going to mention any other Pixar movie (excluding Monsters, Inc.) from here-on-out in this review. I want to review it as a Pixar movie, and not as a Pixar movie in the shadow of other, possibly better Pixar movies. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t a Pixar movie, because that just isn’t possible, and a disservice to Pixar. It also isn’t possible because their exemplary animation is present.

This is the most creative, the most charming, and the best, animated movie of the year so far. It’s heart-warming, moving, and funny. Everything here is top notch. The story features great entertainment and a whole lot of heart. The animation is beautiful, and the creativity put into this is prominent. The stakes are high during the movie; because of a situation caused by Mike and Sulley’s feud. Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), is a frightening monster who, in some ways, is reminiscent of Henry Waternoose from Monsters, Inc. Thankfully, and impressively, this Dean is a completely different character. One might get the vibe that this franchise teaches University deans and bosses cannot be trusted.

I love how Pixar can create movies that both children and adults will love. The humour isn’t always cutesy, it’s usually extremely clever. The plot is also smart and rather enthralling for an animated family feature. The last thirty (or so) minutes is an amazing final act, and one of the best and most memorable in Pixar’s filmography. Even people with the smallest bladders should hold their urine like there’s no god-damn tomorrow. This is set at a university (hence: Monsters University), which might play a part in the appeal to older audiences. This isn’t set where it is purely because of marketing to older audiences (because Monsters, Inc. definitely would be enough to bring fans back to the theatre to see this). This is set at a university because it’s the best time for these two monsters to meet. It’s when people meet their lifelong friends. It’s where their feud makes sense. This wouldn’t be set at a pre-school, mostly because their feud could be over petty things like a crayon or Teddy Graham crackers (even though those are really freaking tasty). The creators really know what they’re doing, and how to give each of these characters depth.

You better believe this little guy is the cutest thing about the movie.

You better believe this little guy is the cutest thing in the movie.

There’s a new slate of colourful and inventive characters. This university looks like a great place to go to school. (And since Mike and Sulley can attend university, it makes me think I can do it, too!) This is part coming-of-age tale because the fraternity house crew, Oozma Kappa, that Mike and Sulley fall into, are a group of misfits who cannot scare, but they do have a lot of heart. The gang, and Mike, must find it within themselves to let out their scariest and mightiest roars.

One of the main criticisms this movie might receive is that “it doesn’t need to exist”. Justin Bieber doesn’t need to exist, but some people like him. (Yes, I did just compare this to Justin Bieber. If Monsters U is going to go up against Justin Bieber, MU is going to win ten times out of ten.) If you do feel MU didn’t have to see the light of day, you’ll be glad it gets made. As a fan of Pixar, a lover of movies, and a lover of Mike and Sulley, I’m estatic this exists. This movie is so entertaining, and I love it. It’s a great opportunity to see beloved characters in a new light.

They get new layers. Mike is a student who knows everything about everything, but he hasn’t always felt like he belongs. Sulley is a student who thinks he can get by just because of his family name. We see these characters in new, more vulnerable situations. We get to see these two monsters become an inseparable pair. We also get to see how Randall Boggs came to hate this dynamic duo. We also get to see some hilarious cameos. And for those opportunities, I will always cherish this fantastic film. I will always watch this with a big smile on my face. This is an impressive prequel to Monsters, Inc., and an impressive Pixar movie.

90/100

The Hangover Part III (2013)

The Hangover 3

Release Date: May 23, 2013

Director: Todd Phillips

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis

Runtime: 100 min

Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms star in an original tale of bad decisions and mayhem. The movie I’m talking about is 2009’s The Hangover. The first sequel has a severe case of sequelitis (exact same thing as the first). We now arrive at The Hangover Part III, a movie that suffers from a far more common and simple occurrence: bad movie syndrome.

The movie opens at the prison where Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) is now escaping, under the cover of a prison riot. He crawls in the sewer, but comes out clean on the other side. It then changes tone to follow the wolfpack. After the death of Alan’s father, the wolfpack take Alan (Zach Galifianakis) to a mental hospital to get his problems sorted out. On the way there, they are assaulted and Doug is kidnapped (again). They must find Leslie Chow and bring him to Marshall, Doug’s kidnapper, in order to save Doug.

This isn’t able to cut ties to the original or the first sequel. The plot afoot, where Marshall (John Goodman) kidnaps Doug (Justin Bartha), in consequence to what Chow did in the first. They go to Las Vegas, again. There’s a trade-off in the desert, again. The filmmakers don’t keep some of the best components: Stu singing a song, Mike Tyson, good comedy, and worst of all, a hangover. These guys are never drunk during the movie! Frankly, these sober guys aren’t so fun to watch. Todd Phillips is so terrified of making the same movie three times; he changes the overall tone. Viewers who are expecting to cry from laughter will be sorely disappointed. It has some funny scenes, because you might laugh at Alan being his idiotic self; but most of the content is so dark, it can’t be considered funny.

Doug (Justin Bartha) has always been a secondary presence, since this Princess Peach-esque character is kidnapped so much. Black Doug (Mike Epps), honorary wolfpack member, has always been the better Doug. He is a star of one of the only hilarious scenes in the entire movie. The other humour suddenly becomes tired because we’ve seen it in the trailers already. One joke that becomes exhausting is when Alan pretends to give someone a high five, but it’s a sike-out and he grooms his hair instead. It’s a little funny the first time; and since it’s not so funny the second time, it sure as hell won’t be funny the third freaking time. Stu (Ed Helms) is relied on to make gagging noises at disgusting parts. The only characters that have should-be funny dialogue are Alan (of course), Chow and Black Doug.

The problem is, both Alan and Chow become more and more irritating as the movie progresses. Alan is more moronic than ever, and Chow is more sociopathic than ever. The hilarious content is limited. The fact that thinking of a truly funny scene in a comedy movie, especially one of The Hangover franchise, is a huge issue. This one is memorable for all the wrong reasons. The first produces a laugh-a-minute, almost, but here you’ll be lucky to laugh every ten. This is truly the most bizarre out of the three; and the plotting is ludicrous, even if if there is an evident plot.

The humour is mean-spirited and, often enough, downright despicable. These sociopathic and passive-aggressive characters only seem to care about retrieving Doug. Alan, an overweight toddler with an awesome beard, has a bit of a heart because he begins to realize his actions have a very negative outcome, and he tries to fix it. Phil is still the calm and collected one, but he’s generally unfunny, here. This will be remembered as that one movie that broke Bradley Cooper’s hot streak.

Do you want to know some really despicable and enfuriating humour at play here? (I’ll tell you anyway.) In the trailer, Alan’s car goes under a low bridge, but the giraffe doesn’t. Todd Phillips shows the giraffe’s severed head crashing into a windshield. At a later moment, Phil says, “I think it’s kinda funny. It’s a giraffe, who the f*ck cares?” Of course this is all for shock, but Phillips is definitely receiving angry calls from PETA this weekend.

This has a few forgettable laughs, but its dark tone makes this memorable for the wrong reason. This really should be excellent, because the trailers make this look promising. Optimistic fans of the franchise will not find a bigger disappointment this summer season. If you are disappointed, don’t make the same mistake I did by walking out of the theatre right when the end credits start to roll. Apparently, there’s a hilarious scene part-way through the credits. This movie is like a cruel, sad little man with a cold, sociopathic heart. The filmmakers give making a good movie the old college try; but giving something ‘the old college try’ shouldn’t mean it will feel like it’s written by mentally disturbed college students.

25/100

Monsters, Inc. (3D) (2001)

Monsters, Inc.Monsters,  Inc. (3D)

Release Date: November 2, 2012 (3D Re-release: December 19, 2012)

Directors: Pete Docter, David Silverman, Lee Unkrich

Stars (voices): John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi

Runtime: 92 min

Tagline: Monsters, Inc. : We scare because we care

Monsters, Inc. is the fourth film that Disney is re-releasing in 3D (along with The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Finding Nemo) and the second for Disney’s Pixar. They are a studio that knows how to use the modern 3D visual effects with fine moderation. It seems as if they only visually enhance the best action scenes in a major way.

A city of monsters called Monstropolis centers around its power company, Monsters, Inc. That said power company generates the city’s electricity by scaring children half to death – they go into the human world and the more they scare the children, the more power they generate. The top scarer is James P. Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman), the lovable and cuddly big blue guy. At least, he’s lovable to his friends in the monster world – he’s the fuel for nightmares in the human world. He and his little green bowling ball buddy, Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) are the perfect dream team and the best of pals. One day, Randall (voiced by Steve Buscemi), a chameleon-like bogeyman leaves a door in the factory on purpose to steal the child he scares and use her for sinister purposes. However, Sully gets in the way – and the small child, Boo, wreaks havoc in the monster world and may just drive a wedge between the relationship of Sully and Mike. Will they be able to return Boo home and avoid Randall by all means?

The concept for this film is one of the most original for animated features to ever see the big old silver screen. While the children of that world are afraid of the big old monsters hiding in their closets every night; those monsters are terrified of an adorable girl in piggly wiggly tails and even a human sock that has an interaction with their skin. It’s very clever and fun. While the concept may be somewhat edgy for a family feature, it turns out to be fan-freaking-tastic.

It’s helped out by its fast pace, visually great action sequences and laugh-out-loud comedy. The comedy is astounding for the children, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable for older audiences. Everyone can really relate to this, as we as children would check under our beds before we sleep or ask our parents to inspect the closet for bogeymen (heck, I even look under my bed now from time to time – and I don’t even have a closet door any longer).

It is fairly surprising that one can so easily relate to this feature, as it is a simply refreshing and brilliant story about monsters who are terrified of little children, and vice versa. It also brings much truth to the “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.” That is especially true for one monster, George, one who constantly gets mauled by the Child Detection Agency.

The story is great and it’s an overall splendid feature, but the real charm is in the voice performances. Goodman and Crystal convince us that they might as well have been friends for life, and the other chemistry is fine. Everyone involved does a great job, especially Mary Gibbs who voices Boo, and I’m pretty sure the only coherent word of English she utters is “Kitty,” the nickname she assigns to Sully. She is also a young girl who, unexpectedly, changes the factory and the hearts of a few select monsters for the better. You know, There are more powerful things that the sound of children screaming.

In a nutshell: Monsters,  Inc. is one of the most original animated features to see the light of day, and it is one of Pixar’s best. It is really a treat to be given the opportunity to see this in theatres again, and just a few months before the much-anticipated prequel.

100/100

Flight (2012) Review

Flight

Release Date: November 2, 2012

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Stars: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle

Runtime: 138 min

Finally, Robert Zemeckis has returned, after twelve years, to directing real people (at least he didn’t generally disappear from the directing game like James Cameron did for twelve freaking years). Zemeckis’ last live-action film was 2000’s Cast Away, and since 2004, he has been experimenting with his unique knack of animated features. In 2004, he brought us the decent enough The Polar Express; in 2007, he brought us the Action/Animation feature Beowulf; and in 2009, he brought us the pretty over-the-top-and-not-in-a-good-way, Disney’s A Christmas Carol. Now, he’s back with a big old ka-boom to direct this beauty.

Whip Whitaker is ready to fly a plane after a night of partying. Once he takes that puppy in the air, it soon gets attacked by turbulence, and soon enough, the hydraulics take a turn for the worse. He lands it safely on the ground, and saves a lot of lives because of this. For a short time, he is seen as an unarguable hero, but once an investigation gets put in order, it reveals that Whitaker is a struggling alcoholic. Whitaker makes friendships along the way, and must simultaneously face both ridicule, and must fight off his inner demon of alcoholism and come to terms with the beast that lives inside of him.

Flight doesn’t feel as long as it actually is. By the time the film is over, you may not have any idea that two hours and twenty minutes have gone by. And when you do realize it, you won’t mind. Flight is totally compelling and often gripping. There is not one bad scene in this feature. The world of addiction is well and profoundly investigated with Whitaker, especially because he cannot admit to himself, or others, that he has a pretty serious problem. He also feels that if he wasn’t drunk during the time of flying, everyone on the plane may have survived. That opening 20-minute sequence of the plane rushing through a sea of turbulence, and flying upside down, is both exciting and just a wicked does of an adrenaline rush. Imagine any other plane crash sequence in other films, and imagine it hyped up on cocaine and codeine (but without overdosing). Do you have that picture in your head? Yeah, it’s pretty crazy, exciting and tense all at the same time. Even after seeing it a second time, you’ll still feel as tense as you did the first time around. The suspense for that scene is beautifully created, and you can just feel it on each character’s faces.

Flight sometimes can feel like an AA meeting, but only in a few scenes, especially when they are at an AA meeting of sorts. Though, those scenes aren’t even bad. The fact that Whitaker wants to push everyone away who just wants to help him, can get a little frustrating for the viewer. Still, we all can feel the turmoil that Whitaker is facing in this state in his life, and over a vast majority of his life. Denzel Washington yet again brings a great character to life with ease, and portrays him beautifully, and makes us want to root for him wholeheartedly.

There is a sort of dramatic, emotional, darkly hilarious at times, and philosophical blended atmosphere that one can really get absorbed in. We, the viewers, may not know the true hardships of addiction and may not understand Whitaker’s drinking, but we must comprehend that it seems like a very difficult disease to defeat. One person who tries to help Whitaker overcome his addiction is Nicole, a heroin addict who is trying to get sober. The relationship between the two grows is nice but can get a little strained because they both are addicts, but she has come to terms with her addiction and wants to overcome it, while Whitaker is having a tougher time. Some other relationships formed in the film are nice too, but almost all don’t feel great (like with his union rep, Charlie Anderson or his lawyer, Hugh Lang) because Whitaker really feels like a person who doesn’t play well with others, even though he’s a very sympathetic man. One person he does play well with is Harling Mays (John Goodman), his cousin and sometimes drug dealer. Harling is not present in the film for an extremely long time, but when he is, he really steals the show with his comic relief, and no one else could play this role as well as John Goodman accomplishes. He is just the best, and only, man for the job.

The sound is great and the performances are great. Everything about this drama is just solid, because it is so profound and is very enjoyable. There is a load of emotional content here, and one heck of a suspenseful scene at the beginning of the feature. For those who find the concept of addiction fascinating, will enjoy this even more. Everyone does a superb job on this project, and if Denzel Washington doesn’t get nominated for the Oscar for Best Leading Actor, I’ll get drunk, fly a plane, and crash it.

88/100