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: While flawed ‘The Mauritanian’ manages to hold a viewer’s interest

In 2019, “The Report showed audiences awful actions done by the United States government during the War on Terror.

In a similar fashion, “The Mauritanian” does the same thing, although this time with a more specific focus.

“The Mauritanian” refers to Mahamedou (Tahar Rahim), a man who was held at Guantanamo Bay for well over a decade without ever having an official charge brought against him by the United States. The intelligence services of the government claim he was a key recruiter for the terrorists that attacked on 9/11, but Mohamedou denied having anything to do with the plot.

Despite his denial, though, he’s arrested and taken into U.S. custody at the Cuba facility. There, he’s put in a legal situation where he will be prosecuted by military attorney Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch), who lost a friend in the 9/11 attacks. Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster), meanwhile, decides to become Mohamedou’s legal defender after learning about the situation, with the help of her assistant Teri (Shilene Woodley).

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REVIEW: ‘I Care a Lot’ crumbles due to poor writing

Sometimes there are pieces of media that just try way too hard to be edgy. “I Care a Lot” definitely joins that club.

Rosamund Pike stars as Marla Grayson in “I Care a Lot,” a woman who’s made a career as a legal guardian for the elderly. As part of her job, Grayson will get a notice from a doctor she works with stating that an elderly person can no longer live on her own, which she brings to a court.

In turn, the court will then grant legal guardianship to Grayson, allowing her to determine the care for the elderly person, which results in her putting them in an assisted living facility. It also means she has access to the elderly individual’s finances. The latest individual she decides to get legal guardianship over, Jennifer Peterson (Diane Wiest), though, just happens to have a significant connection to Russian mob boss Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage).

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REVIEW: ‘Nomadland’ is a superb film about the human condition

Director Chloe Zhao is on a roll, following up her phenomenal picture “The Rider” with one of 2020’s best films.

“Nomadland” tells the story of Fern , a woman who’s retrofitted a commercial-sized van to live out of. Fern, played by Frances McDormand, made her decision after two-life changing events occurred. One of them was the death of her husband, and the other was the closing of the main company in a small Nevada town which economically devastated the city. With nothing left, Fern decided to go out on the road.

The movie picks up with Fern working at an Amazon facility, earning paychecks during the busy holiday season. When the season comes to an end, the film follows her journey across the the Great Plains and western-mountain states. During her time living on the road, Fern meets several people who share their perspectives on life and what their plans are for the future.

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REVIEW: Character issues make ‘Over the Moon’ a misfire

The year 2020 hasn’t been my favorite for animation and unfortunately, “Over the Moon” hasn’t helped that case.

The picture, released on Netflix, tells the story of Fei Fei (Cathy Ang), a young girl who became fascinated by the Moon because of stories told by her late mother. At the film’s outset, following the death of her mother, Fei Fei is working with her father at their small pastry company.

Life seems to be carrying on for the family, but the pain of loss still lingers for Fei Fei. That pain is reinforced when her father begins spending time with a woman, Ms. Zhong (Sandra Oh), as the Moon Festival approaches. Eventually, she learns that her father plans to marry Ms Zhong, and as a result, she will likely be getting an annoying step brother in the deal.

Hoping to fix the situation, she builds a craft capable of reaching the moon to speak with an ancient being who resides there. The plan goes a little haywire, though, when it turns out her step-brother-to-be, Chin (Robert Chiu), tagged along for the ride.

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REVIEW: ‘Minari’ is a beautiful, emotional immigrant story

Definitions of the American Dream can sometimes vary, but when you see it, you know it. An audience can see it clearly in this picture.

“Minari” tells the story of David (Alan Kim), a young boy whose Korean family is moving to Arkansas. His father Jacob (Steven Yeun) and mother Monica (Han Ye-ri) both get positions at a local chicken hatchery for employment, and settle in at a rural home. Along with his parents, David’s family also includes his sister Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and grandmother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung).

As the film goes on, it’s shown that Jacob intended to use his job at the hatchery to get some footing, and that his main plan is to create a farm on his property, where he will grow Korean vegetables. As he plants more crops, Jacob hires a neighbor, Paul (Will Patton), to help with the process. The film follows the family trying to establish their life in Arkansas and the struggles that come with it.

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REVIEW: ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ is a powerful, magnetic drama

The use of confidential informants, as this film shows in great detail, can be a problematic law enforcement measure.

In this case, the movie is about informant Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), a young man who is arrested for pretending to be an FBI agent to steal a car. Rather than be charged right away, though, O’Neal is given an opportunity by bureau agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons). Not long before Mitchell gave O’Neal the opportunity, J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) announced that Black Panther Illinois Leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) needed to be monitored.

That’s the job offered by Mitchell, and to avoid prison time, O’Neal reluctantly accepts. O’Neal makes his way into the Black Panthers organization and over time, establishes himself as a full-fledged member. As a result, O’Neal begins getting closer to Hampton and is able to report his findings to the FBI. However, with tensions seeming to rise all around him, O’Neal finds himself being pulled in two directions.

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REVIEW: ‘Bliss’ breaks down due to story, pacing issues

During my viewing of “Bliss,” I was starting to have flashbacks of 2019’s “Serenity,” another January release. At the very least, “Bliss” is better than that feature, but only slightly so.

Owen Wilson plays Greg in “Bliss,” a man who seems to be lost in thoughts of a dream home while at work. Unfortunately, his lack of attention ends with him being fired from his position. Not long after, he finds himself in a bar with Isabel (Salma Hayek), a woman who informs him that she can manipulate reality around them.

She’s able to do this because, according to her, the world they’re living in isn’t actually a real one. Basically, Isabel says the simulation theory is real and what she and Greg are in is an artificial reality. With this new information, Greg begins being pulled in two directions, and has difficulty in determining what’s real and what’s not.

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REVIEW: Repetitive dialogue makes ‘Malcolm and Marie’ mediocre

Zendaya and John David Washington do verbal battle in this new romantic drama on Netflix.

Washington stars as the titular Malcolm in this feature, a director who’s just coming home from the premiere of his first big movie. After getting home, with his girlfriend Marie (Zendaya), Malcolm begins talking about how his movie will be interpreted by the public as well as his thoughts and feelings about being a filmmaker.

As Malcolm continues, Marie interjects into the conversation, and the two begin talking about the film and its influences. Eventually, the talking turns to debating and as a result, their relationship is explored, along with their backgrounds.

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REVIEW: ‘The Little Things’ has little to offer the detective genre

Denzel Washington is once again doing detective work in California but this time, it’s not a training day.

Washington plays Joe Deacon, who casually goes by Deke. A former detective, Deke now works as a sheriff deputy with a normal beat. He mostly stays in his own lane, but at the movie’s start, he’s brought in to give some experienced advice on a new murder case.

The case is being primarily helmed by Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), a young detective who’s already making a name for himself as a talented inspector. While the two are at first not thrilled about working together, they eventually decide they can figure this puzzle out better by working side-by-side. The film explores them doing so and also begins revealing why Deke made a career change.

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