REVIEW: Hudson’s stunning performance not enough to fully salvage generic ‘Respect’

Aretha Franklin was a powerful force in music and Civil Rights, and this movie certainly touches on both of those aspects.

One just wishes the quality of the film had been above that of a standard biopic.

“Respect” mainly follows Franklin’s (Jennifer Hudson) childhood and roughly the first 10 to 15 years of her career. The film opens with Franklin losing her mother and the impact the death leaves on her.

From there, it follows how music helped Franklin open up again after her mother’s death. Then, the picture focuses on how Franklin went from a lead singer at her father’s (Forest Whitaker) church to a struggling singer, and then finally breaking through to success.

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REVIEW: Despite strong lead performance, ‘U.S. v Holiday’ doesn’t hold up

There are many politicians, musicians and others who deserve good biopic movies. There are also a lot of not so good biopics out there about interesting people.

Unfortunately, Billie Holiday meets the former and this film fits the latter.

“The United States vs Billie Holiday” follows the titular singer (Andra Day) mostly during her career in the 1940s, with a heavy focus on her song “Strange Fruit.” The song references lynching and came not long after an anti-lynching bill was rejected by the United States Senate.

Early on in the film, the FBI is shown as being paranoid of the song to the point where they fear the music will encourage the Civil Rights movement more. Driven by this, the agency targets Holiday, mainly by going after her on drug charges, as Holiday was using substances during her career.

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REVIEW: The movie magic in ‘Mank’ is good, not great

The foundation for what many consider to be one of the greatest films ever made is showcased in David Fincher’s latest project.

The Netflix film, titled “Mank,” tells the story of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman). The movie picks up with Mankiewicz, who’s recovering from a leg injury suffered during a car accident, being hired to help write the movie “Citizen Kane” by Orson Welles (Tom Burke).

Mankiewicz, with the help of his secretary Rita (Lily Collins), manages to pen the script, despite a few hiccups along the way. As the movie shows him doing so, several flashbacks to Mankiewicz in the 30s are shown, displaying where the writer picked up his inspiration. Namely, the movie features several sequences where Mankiewicz interacted with William Randolph Hearst.

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REVIEW: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ is a mess of misery and melodrama

The difficulties and hardships of poverty have no doubt been explored in some great movies.

Unfortunately, “Hillbilly Elegy” doesn’t join that club.

The movie is based on a memoir by J.D. Vance, an American businessman who grew up in Ohio. In the film, Vance (Gabriel Basso) is a student at Yale University who’s looking to get hired by a law firm.

However, during the night of a big social dinner, Vance gets a call that his mother, Bev (Amy Adams) has overdosed on heroin. As a result, Vance drives back to the town he grew up in and in doing so, thinks back to his youth where he lived with both his mother and his grandmother, affectionately known as Mamaw (Glenn Close).

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REVIEW: ‘Tesla’ is far from terrific

Nikola Tesla is a man whose legacy has nearly made him into a sort of mythical figure. This film, directed by Michael Almereyda, attempts to capture Tesla’s career with an artistic flair.

“Tesla” follows the titular character, played by Ethan Hawke, in the middle of a corporate competition between Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan) and George Westinghouse (Jim Gaffigan). The two are trying to take hold of the electric industry and Tesla’s ideas are coming into play.

However, unlike those two, Tesla was thinking ahead of just the competition of electricity. As the film shows, he has a lot of ideas that go beyond just lighting a bulb.

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REVIEW: ‘The Glorias’ is scattered but insightful

Julianne Moore was already partly ready for this role, as just a couple years earlier she played another character named Gloria in “Gloria Bell.”

The Gloria in this movie, though, is the real life Gloria Steinem. In this biopic, written and directed by Julie Taymor, the influential women’s rights advocate is played by several actresses, as the film explores multiple periods of Steinem’s life.

The audience gets to see Steinem’s experiences in childhood, her early jobs as a journalist, and later her involvement with ERA passage efforts. Along with insight into her career works, the film dives into many of the relationships Steinem had, from family to friends.

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REVIEW: ‘Bombshell’ has strong acting, but lacks extensive insight

Roger Ailes’ ouster from the media company he built is explored in this drama, but it only scratches the surface.

“Bombshell” tells the story of Ailes’ (John Lithgow) final months at Fox News by taking the perspective of anchors Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman). Additionally, brought into the middle of the situation is a reporter for Fox, Kayla (Margot Robbie) who’s representative of anonymous victims who worked at the company.

Aside from a few flashbacks, the film takes place over the course of the 2016 presidential election, with an emphasis on the Republican Primary. The focus on the primary comes as some at Fox News, such as Kelly, have issues with then candidate Donald Trump. The friction of the primary coincides with the building of a case against Ailes, who was accused by several women of sexual harassment and assault.

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REVIEW: ‘Richard Jewell’ is a strong entry in Eastwood’s filmography

News travels fast, and unfortunately it can lead to mishaps, mistakes and early announcements that are later debunked. That’s exactly what happened in “Richard Jewell,” and an innocent person was forced to deal with the negative results.

The movie follows the story of the title character, played here by Paul Walter Hauser. After some introduction scenes, the movie picks up with Jewell working security for AT&T events at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Jewell aspires to one day have a steady job in law enforcement, so he takes his work very seriously, much more so even than his colleagues in the security business. While he receives some jokes about his commitment to a seemingly safe concert area, his concerns, unfortunately, turn out to be valid.

One night during his shift, he comes across a suspicious backpack that happens to contain an explosive device that had been left there by a terrorist. The film captures the moment the bomb goes off after its discovery and how Jewell was initially seen as a hero for calling it in and reporting it to officers.

Sadly, as history tells us, Jewell was then made a suspect by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and a media firestorm erupts. In an effort to defend himself, Jewell hires a friend and lawyer from a former job, Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) and tries to survive as his life is investigated.

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REVIEW: Strong lead performance doesn’t sustain ‘Harriet’ biopic

The story of Harriet Tubman deserves to be told in an award caliber, fantastic movie. Unfortunately, this isn’t it.

As the title implies, the film follows the adult life of Tubman. Beginning with her time as a slave, the movie introduces the protagonist as Araminta, or Minty as she’s been nicknamed.

After finding out her slave owner won’t free her based on a previous agreement, Araminta opts to leave her current life behind and escape north. Her journey is dangerous and filled with hardship, but eventually, she crosses into the free state of Pennsylvania and finds her way to Philadelphia, where an anti-slavery organization is headquartered.

Upon her arrival, she’s able to choose a new name, and she selects Harriet Tubman. In the ensuing days, Tubman finds employment, a home and a free life. However, knowing that her family and others are still in the slave system of the south, she decides to help them come north. As history tells us, Tubman succeeded and continued her efforts, freeing more slaves from the south. Her work in doing so is shown on screen here.

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REVIEW: Film art legends deliver a powerful American odyssey

Now, we all know Jimmy Hoffa’s body was taken from beneath a stadium into a UFO by aliens, but I suppose it’s worth checking out what this film’s take is on what happened.

“The Irishman” refers to a nickname given to Frank Sheeran, played here by Robert De Niro. At the start of Director Martin Scorsese’s latest feature film, Sheeran is working as a truck driver in Philadelphia, who delivers meat and earns an honest living. However, after some time, he begins making some shipments to a local gangster, and from there he gets involved with mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). Sheeran begins doing jobs for Russell and eventually becomes an enforcer for the crime syndicate.

Eventually, because of the ties between certain organized crime factions and some unions, Frank comes into contact with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). The powerful Teamsters President takes a liking to Frank and eventually the two start working together. The work he does, though, is deadly and corrupt. As a result Frank’s life never really settles down.

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