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Tag Archives: Forest Whitaker

Southpaw

Life is pretty hard for boxer Billy Hope (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), but it’s pretty good too. He and his beautiful wife, Maureen (by Rachel McAdams) have a very happy marriage, they have a delightful and well-behaved daughter, Leila (by Oona Laurence) and Billy’s career is going from strength to strength. He works hard and he fights hard in the ring, but he’s the reigning Junior Middleweight Champion and he feels like he owns the world! One evening, the couple attend a special function to honour Billy and suddenly tragedy strikes. Billy’s world is rocked to the core and he loses all hope. Nothing makes sense to him anymore and as depression envelops him, he loses his grip on life. Soon, his career is in tatters, his finances are a mess and then comes the final brutal blow … he loses custody of Leila. He can’t seem to get out of it, until the day he meets Tick Wills (by Forest Whitaker), a retired boxer who now runs a training gym for young amateur boxers, most down on their luck. This man may just be the thing Billy needs – but he’s a tough disciplinarian, with scruples that won’t be challenged. Can down-trodden Billy convince Tick to take him on and re-train him back to where he once was? Can he find the strength to win back the trust of the people around him … and the custody of his daughter? ….

If you take out all the highly graphic physical fights, violence, injuries and workouts it has taken to create this movie, it’s really just an ordinary story. There’s no doubt that Jake Gyllenhaal has given everything to this role – it would have been physical torture and exhausting. However, the story itself is fairly standard – boxer in his prime, cut down by tragedy, loses everything, must regain the trust of those around him, works hard to get back to an even keel … there’s not really anything to add here. However, the performances are all great. Jake, as I said, is fully into this role and he wears it all over his face for much of the movie. Rachel McAdams is luminous – she is lovely and her character is very nice. Oona Laurence does very well as the “older than her years” daughter Leila. It’s good to see Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson in a dramatic role – it’s quite straightforward and he does well. As Tick Wills, Forest Whitaker is fine, but doesn’t do anything too extraordinary. The whole thing is fine, but I’d wait for television to see this.

Made in 2015. Directed by Antoine Fuqua

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2016 in Movies

 

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Platoon

In the late 1960’s, Chris Taylor (played by Charlie Sheen) arrives in Vietnam – fresh-faced, keen and naiive. He’s already one of a minority – he’s dropped out of college and volunteered for the Army. He joins his Platoon – lead by Sergeant Barnes (by Tom Berenger), a worldly-wise career soldier with facial scars to prove he’s experienced violence before – and Sergeant Elias (by Willem Dafoe), the complete opposite to Barnes, he manages to keep a spiritual calm despite the high stress jungle environment and his doubts about the war. Chris’ platoon buddies help him to familiarise with the ways of jungle warfare – the longer he’s here, the more he learns and the higher he’s valued by his platoon. Life in Vietnam for these soldiers is frightening and punctuated by incessant bugs, damp, exhaustion, rations, drugs and marking off a mental calendar until leaving again for home. Rainforest encounters with the enemy are difficult, chaotic and terrifying – and when violence erupts between highly stressed soldiers and Vietnamese villagers, things can get nasty very quickly. As the weeks pass, Chris becomes less and less confident in his quest and more and more distant from his home and much loved Grandma. His letters home are his journal – his thoughts, once moral and positive, become doubtful and sceptical. Who’s the real enemy here? … is this really what he signed up for?

This is a graphic war movie and it’s good. If you want a ground-level view of Army life for a jungle solider in the Vietnam War, this is probably a great place to start. The day to day boredom and terror of this life is depicted well by Oliver Stone – the viewer can feel the humidity, sweat, grime and horror that is experienced by these soldiers. Charlie Sheen is marvellous as Chris Taylor, it’s perhaps his best ever performance. Tom Berenger is excellent as the unpredictable and terrifying Platoon Sergeant Barnes – he was awarded Best Support Actor by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for this performance and nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar). Oliver Stone’s directorship earned him awards from the Hollywood Foreign Press, Directors Guild of America, Independent Spirit Awards, BAFTA, Berlin International Film Festival and Academy (Oscar). Willem Dafoe’s portrayal as Elias is a great counterpoint to the irrational Barnes and he was nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar) for this. The Platoon features several actors who went on to do marvellous work after this – Forest Whitaker, Keith David, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley and a very young Johnny Depp. The cinematography is great (it won an Independent Spirit Award and was nominated for an Academy Award [Oscar]) and the editing and sound are Academy Award winners too.  It’s a good war movie.

Made in 1986. Directed by Oliver Stone.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2015 in Movies

 

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The Butler

It’s the 1920’s in the cotton fields of America’s South. Cecil Gains (played by Michael Rainey Jr., Aml Ameen then Forest Whitaker) is a young child, born and raised here on the cotton plantation with his parents. His childhood is marked by horror and cruelty as he watches the abuse of his mother and violent death of his father. An orphan, the landowner’s wife (by Vanessa Redgrave) takes him in to the homestead as a house servant, where he works until he’s a teenager. He learns to tend to the family’s every whim as if he’s not there. He leaves the plantation to make his own way in the world and heads north. He finds deep love with his wife Gloria (by Oprah Winfrey) and they raise two sons, Louis (by David Oyelowo) and Charlie (by Elijah Kelley). He works hard to provide for his wife and family. He excels as a server and rises through jobs as house servant to a butler. One day while he’s working, he’s spotted by a household manager from the White House and invited to work there. He proudly becomes a White House butler. So begins his long career serving the President. As the years pass, issues of civil rights and race segregation bring more and more active protests and violence throughout the country and Cecil’s son Louis becomes politically active. Cecil finds this very hard to accept and their relationship suffers.  His career at the White House spans his loyal and discrete service to Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush Snr. Although Cecil is an unassuming man, throughout the decades his unwavering loyalty to the Presidents brings unexpected challenges in his personal life and for his family.

This movie brings to screen a story uncovered during the Obama Presidential campaign when journalist Wil Haygood sought an African American who’d been a White House employee during the Civil Rights movement. He found Eugene Allen, now 89, and this is his story. The issues of the time are depicted well, as is the conflict between father and son – it gives a good overview for anyone not familiar with the issues, the significance of the Freedom Bus and the work of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. Clearly, it has the potential to be really great and with such strength in the cast from Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Terence Howard, Vanessa Redgrave, Lenny Kravitz, John Cusack and Cuba Gooding Jr, its credentials cannot be denied. Alongside these key characters, the drama is peppered with cameos from great actors such as Jane Fonda, Robin Williams, Alan Rickman and Clarence Williams III … the list goes on and on – it should have been stunning … but … it isn’t. Unfortunately, it’s only okay. Both Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey put in good strong performances (in my view, she is much better on screen than as a talk show host), but the rest is only good, not outstanding. There have been whispers of disappointments that Oscar nominations didn’t come, but it doesn’t really rate well enough alongside the other contenders for this year.  I think that is the right call for this one.   

Made in 2013. Directed by Lee Daniels

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Movies

 

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Consenting Adults

Richard Parker (played by Kevin Kline) is a composer working in advertising. He works with his artistic wife, Priscilla (by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) and they have a happy life with their teenage daughter Lori (by Kimberly McCullough). One day, a curious new neighbour, Eddie Otis (by Kevin Spacey), an insurance salesman, appears at the house next door. He quickly introduces himself to Richard and Priscilla and then by way of some neighbourly drinks sessions, dinner dates and entertaining outings, he and his wife Kay (by Rebecca Miller) become a major part of the Parkers’ social lives. Priscilla is particularly fascinated by Eddie and Kevin is enchanted by Kay – a marvellous torch singer who has modestly hidden her talents up until now. Eddie is constantly and mischieviously involving Richard in boyish banter and he persuades Richard that an evening of wife-swapping would be a great idea – just as a one off, just for the excitement. Richard, reluctant at first, is persuaded by Kay’s appeal and agrees. This is when things start to get intriguing and out of control at the same time – there’s something a little disturbing about Eddie, and Richard is about to find out just what that is …

This movie is a bit better than average. The plot is sufficiently involved to keep a viewer engaged and on the whole the performances are good. The story twists and turns very well and there are some surprises in the telling, which make it more than simply a rom-com gone wrong. In terms of each of the cast, the movie really belongs to Kevin Spacey – he totally owns every scene he features in. Nobody can do “boyish charm and irritating arrogance tinged with an edge of disturbing terror” quite like Spacey. Kevin Kline is also a very strong performer – any time he is required to act with intensity to portray happiness, dismay, confusion, fear or terror, he does this very well. However, he just doesn’t do “tough guy” very well at all. As a result, the scenes where he is required to do that are very weak indeed. There is one patch towards the end of the movie where the drama loses its intensity quite abruptly – and it never really recovers from this until the final scenes, where Kevin Spacey saves it once again. The women are fine, but that’s probably about all – the eightie’s fashions and styling may bring a hint of nostalgia to mind, or just a giggle!!. Forest Whitaker appears in a support role as private investigator, David Duttonville. Overall though, this move is good and entertaining.

Made in 1992. Directed by Alan J.Pakula

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Movies

 

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