Movie Review: Luce (2019)

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Summary: A married couple is forced to reckon with their idealized image of their son, adopted from war-torn Eritrea, after an alarming discovery by a devoted high school teacher threatens his status as an all-star student.
Pros:
Cast and Characters. We have a few people we get to meet throughout the film, some who are around more than others but I’m only going to talk about those who this movie is really focused on.
  • Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Luce Edgar. He is our lead character, he was adopted by Watts and Roth after being rescued from a foreign country. He is the shining star of his high school, he plays sports, he gives the speeches, the other students look up to him… all around perfect kid. However, we see around this perfect persona as suspicious things happen that he seems to be involved with, but it seems like he’s not. Luce’s character has a lot of things he goes through and you’re never sure if what he’s saying or doing is true. It’s up for your interpretation. But this is the second time I’ve seen this young actor and I’m really intrigued by him, I thought he was fantastic, and I’m very much interested in his future.
  • Octavia Spencer as Harriet Wilson. I think she is always good no matter what she does, but she is the History teacher and it seems that she puts students into a box that suits her narrative. But she also seems to be someone who has her students interests at heart. She is very ambiguous just like Luce is, so it really depends on how you feel and what you think. I found myself on her side a lot of the movie but at the same time you doubt her too. But Octavia Spencer is amazing and when she has the scene with Luce, his parents and the principal she does so well! OMG! It’s so amazing. Not to mention the scene with Luce in her house. She’s fantastic.
  • Naomi Watts as Amy Edgar. I mean, she’s Luce’s mother so she’s automatically on Luce’s side even though there are plenty of times where she doubts him, but she goes through this movie going back and forth between being loyal to her child and being a good person lol. She really goes back and forth, and you can’t help but wonder just what you would do in her place. Naomi Watts is very sympathetic though and I understand her struggle but of course being on the outside, I was very frustrated with her lol.
  • Tim Roth as Peter Edgar. So, he’s not as prominent as Watts’ character but he’s just as important. Being that he’s the father, there is a slightly difference approach he has to Luce compared to Amy. He’s a bit more straight forward and less worried to make Luce feel any kind of way. He even flats out just as Luce questions whenever there’s a question he has. I held out for him to be the voice of reason throughout the movie but it’s up to the viewer to decide where he might stand in his last scene. Tim Roth is great, but I can’t say I’m aware of his acting talent from other movies outside of The Incredible Hulk lol, but I liked him a lot and I was expecting him to be the opposite of the mother by being less “sympathetic” to Luce’s nonsense.
Intense Scenes. Ya’ll this movie is intense, the tension in the room between the characters and the dialogue creates such intense moments that I rewound a few scenes just to hear the dialogue again or to see the acting again. There are two that really stood out to me. The scene in the school with Luce, his parents, the principal and Ms. Wilson where she’s basically trying to get everyone to understand what Luce has said and done to her, while he’s feigning innocence is such a great scene. Everyone did such a great job and according to the director commentary that was the first scene they filmed. Excellent. Later, there is a scene with Luce and Ms. Wilson in her house and that was THE BEST SCENE in the movie. I rewound that part because I just could not lol. It was so good. There is also a scene with Ms. Wilson and her sister Rose in the school, my eyes were wide the entire time. There are a few more of these in the film, very hard hitting with great dialogue and fantastic acting.
Ambiguous Narrative. Sometimes it’s super annoying when movies aren’t clear in anything that’s going on, but I think this movie does it so well that I was so into it. You’re not sure what to really believe and I think even if you do decide whose side you want to be on, if you watch it again, you might find yourself thinking about the other person’s ideals even more. I didn’t watch it twice, but I went back and forth a lot. So, while I agree with Ms. Wilson for the most part, I also found myself understanding the hill Luce was climbing about her.
Interesting Story. So, this feeds right into the one above it, but the story is straight forward. It’s basically Luce vs. Ms. Wilson but there are things that happen that are questionable on both characters’ parts. Is Luce hiding terrible information and tormenting this teacher? Is this teacher trying to use her power to tear some students down while lifting others up? Even though she says something about that, it doesn’t seem like her intention is to ruin anyone’s life… I don’t know it’s just so interesting and I think left to the interpretation of the viewer, at least to understand what her actual intentions are. Plus, you have Amy and Peter as Luce’s parents who want the best for him, they think he’s perfect and they go back and forth on believing their son and by the end, their choices are understandable but a little shocking.
Cons:
Frustrating/ Ending. For the movie to build up how it did, with all the details we were given and then for it to just end. I get the point as it mirrors the opening but it’s different this time, the meaning behind it is different, that point in his life is different and the emotion is different, but you now must take the point and what might have happened for yourself. It’s a little annoying because I was going back and forth throughout the film and things are confirmed for Ms. Wilson, but Luce’s parents are just… ugh I don’t know. I’m not even sure if that makes sense lol.
Ambiguous Narrative. Now, I’m praising this aspect, but I can also imagine it being super frustrating for others because you’re not quite clear on who to believe or what’s really going on. It’s all very stylized and it may feel like the narrative is lost in the music and the shots and what not, which at times I did feel that, being that it’s based on a play, that might be part of the problem so I can imagine it being a tad frustrating.
Overall, I think this movie damn near perfect for me. I mean, the acting is phenomenal from everyone, the characters are well written with smart and interesting dialogue. They have great moments where you wonder their intentions or if they’re being honest and truthful. The movie tackles some hard-hitting topics and I think it handles those topics in a way that feels so real and raw and I understand the characters points of views from that. I didn’t give this its own point but the music in this film is good. The director talked about it on the commentary and how they incorporated it into the film. There are a lot of intense scenes where the actors really kick that dialogue in the teeth and delivers great stuff! Just wow! The narrative is ambiguous and usually that bothers me, but it didn’t here, but I can imagine it bothering someone else, not to mention the ending is frustrating. But wonderful movie, worth all the watches.
Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars. 
Have you seen Luce? If so, what did you think about it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Movie Review: Ma (2019)

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Summary: A lonely woman befriends a group of teenagers and decides to let them party at her house. Just when the kids think their luck couldn’t get any better, things start happening that make them question the intention of their host.
This will be a short review.
Pros:
Octavia Spencer as Ma. She’s great lol and she carries the movie. Sue Ann is prompted by some teenagers to buy some beer and she does. Later, she does it again for them but this time invites them to her house to party in her basement. She soon enough becomes friends with these teenagers and shenanigans ensue lol. I’ve never seen Octavia Spencer play a role like this and I think she had a ton of fun and she was great. Those intense looks she gives in general worked really well in this film. She was intimidating when she had to be, scary and even “kind” when she needed to be. It’s quite interesting as the movie goes on, how her backstory unravels and you begin to understand her in a lot of ways.
Thriller Aspect. I think this movie is a fun thriller. I mean, it doesn’t break the mold or anything but it has fun with this aspect. Octavia Spencer is delightfully unsettling so it really goes off of her and of course the jump scares. I actually jumped way more during this movie than when I watched It: Chapter Twolol. I don’t know, maybe I just wasn’t expecting to feel so uncomfortable because I feel like this would really happen. People are crazy.
Interesting Premise. The idea that this lonely woman befriends some teenagers and allows them to party in her house and she continues to grow more and more possessive is super interesting. Plus, you notice, pretty early on once some names are revealed, that she has special interests in Andy and that she might be making connections to her past and she might just take things out on the teenagers. I mean, it’s all interesting stuff and Octavia Spencer is so good that I wish the movie was much better and on her level.
Cons:
The Teenagers. Unfortunately, I didn’t think any of the main teenagers we see in the film, were that great nor were they interesting. They seemed to be the stereotypical teenage tropes you normally see, but they weren’t interesting, nor did the movie give them the chance to really be interesting. It tried with Maggie and Andy but it never really followed through.
The Ending. We have the climax as we always do, Maggie vs Ma and some other things happen. You see them in the trailer, where Ma has done something to the other teenagers but she and Maggie have their collision and a solution and then the movie just ends. I wasn’t expecting to know everything but there needed to be more of a resolution. What happened to the survivors? Did anyone actually die? I mean, I need to know. It was just an aerial shot and then credits. I was like wait whaaatt??
Wasted Potential. The biggest issue with this movie is the writing is really lazy because stuff could have been avoided if people actually followed through with the thoughts they clearly have. There are so many red flags that pop up and there are many moments where Maggie is clearly unsure but never says a word but she didn’t seem to have a problem voicing her opinion any other time. I mean, with a movie like this, it’s important for people to be stupid otherwise there wouldn’t be a movie but I mean, don’t treat your audience like they’re stupid like your characters. Be a bit smarter in your decisions so the characters can have the chance to be interesting and not just skeletons. Besides, I think certain things started to come to a head towards the end and it was like a breakneck pace and the movie just ended lol. Ma clearly has some issues and a dark past and you can see certain things throughout the movie, but the movie never really follow through. It might be mentioned or kind of alluded but…I don’t know, it’s just so weird. There’s this whole thing with the Andy kid that was really interesting, weird, but interesting and I feel like there could have been more there.
Overall, I really enjoyed Ma, way more than I thought I would. It’s a fun movie to be honest. Octavia Spencer is a gem and the best thing about the movie. Her acting chops are amazing and she hits every beat expected of her. The premise is really interesting and I wish the writing was smarter and more fine-tuned to reach the level it could have been on. Also, it’s an effective thriller, it follows the usual tropes but I think it works for this kind of film. Now, I didn’t think the teenagers were interesting, nor did I really care what happened to them, outside of Andy, just because he was sweet lol, and other story elements they put in there. The acting wasn’t that great from any of them, Maggie was probably the best out of the group but meh. The ending is horrible and there is so much wasted potential in this one. BUT I think it’s fun. If you just want to check it out, I think it’s worth checking out.
Rating: 2.89 out of 5 stars. 
Have you seen Ma? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!
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Hidden Figures (2017) Review

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Summary: Based on a true story. A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions.
Pros:
Cast and Characters. There are a lot of characters in this film, but I’m going to stick to talking about the three women who are the focus. I may mention the others but they’ll be categorized as “Secondary”.
  • Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Goble. She is a mathematician, a genius at that. She works in the “Colored Computers” area of Nasa and gets the chance to work with the Space Task Group. She seems a bit reserved and timid, not necessarily shy, but someone who doesn’t seem to socialize much outside of her two best friends. She is so smart, that she makes her situation work. Due to this being set during serration, she is the first African American woman to work in the group, she cannot use the bathrooms, and she even gets funny looks when she uses the coffee pot. It’s easy to see that it affects her, but she does her job and boy does she do it well. No matter how much it seems like the men in her group aren’t trying to help her, she manages to push past that and become even greater. I loved her relationship with her daughters, as well as Dorothy and Mary. She seemed like the middle sister of the group, the one who goes with the flow. I think Taraji was fantastic here, definitely some of her best acting. She’s funny, she’s sweet and kind but when moments need to be fiery she can do that too. She was wonderful and deserves all the accolades. I hope she gets them.
  • Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn. Also a mathematician, she is the “supervisor” of her group of women, she is trying to officially get the job but is having a hard time. She is definitely the mother hen of the group (she’s the one who pushes for Katherine to be considered for the Space Task Group), as well as being pretty handy. When we first meet her, she is under her car trying to find out why it stalled lol, it’s pretty great. When she notices Nasa is bringing a machine to help calculate numbers, she takes it upon herself to make sure she knows how to fix and work that giant machine so she can make moves. You can’t go wrong with Octavia, you know that she is going to tell someone where to put it and when she does, it’s glorious. I loved just how motherly she was, as well as being strong for her friends, for her girls in her group and her kids. There’s this great library/bus scene she’s great.
  • Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson. An engineer, she is definitely like the little sister of her friend group. She is spunky, she will tell it like it is “this is civil rights, I can see fine in every color” lol. She is smart and works hard. She wants to be an engineer but her race and gender hinder that, so she wants to go to school to become eligible for the position. She works on fighting to get into a night school and she was not backing down. As this is Janelle Monae’s first film, it’s not noticeable, she holds her own quite well with the other actresses. She is likable, she makes you root for her and I think she does a really fine job here.
  • Supporting characters.
    • Kevin Costner as Al Harrison. The director of the Space Task Group and he was good. He helped with a lot of nudges, I thought it was some good acting from Mr. Costner.
    • Mahershala Ali as Jim Johnson. I really like this actor, he is such a natural. I find him very attractive lol, but he was definitely a supporting role. He sees Katherine and they talk. He’s so kind to her and her kids. *cries* I love it.
    • Kirsten Dunst as Vivian Mitchell. I like Kirsten Dunst but ooo I want to punch her face in this movie (not the first time honestly though), just like the time period. Skating around legit questions, not providing actual answers… being a little nasty sometimes. I think Kirsten Dunst did well here too.
    • Jim Parsons as Paul Stafford. So jealous of Katherine, he was a bit mean to her sometimes. I don’t watch his show and I haven’t really seen him in anything but it just seemed so weird to see him being rude lol. It doesn’t fit him, sarcastic jerk seems better lol. But he does his job because I wanted to punch him too lol.
The Music. I loved it. It was very uplifting and though it was modern, it had a nice feel to it that indicated the time period.
The costumes. Time period films always call for some great looking costumes, but they were all great, especially Mary Jackson’s clothes. Every time she was on screen, her outfits got a reaction from me lol. I mean everything!
The Friendship. I love seeing strong black friendships in film. I love how each woman was so different but they were so close. They teased each other, they obviously loved each other, and they were each other’s backbones in the world they worked in. Not only were they women in a man’s world, but they were black women in a white man’s world and they helped each other. The scene where Katherine meets Jim Johnson was hilarious, her friends did just what friends do when their single friend finds a man good looking.
The Humor. It’s funny. It’s probably not bust your gut funny but it’s funny. Little comments from Mary about certain things, especially the beginning with the police officer. The way the three women act around each other, how they tease each other. Katherine’s expressions during scenes, same with Mary and Dorothy. It’s quite light hearted.
The story. The story highlights the three black women who worked in Nasa and who took charge and made a change. It’s such a great, uplifting story. It’s encouraging. Katherine has to work so hard just to do her job, a job that she is good at but is constantly met with adversity even as she makes progress. Dorothy wants to move forward in her job but it seems like they won’t let her, so she takes it upon herself to make sure she can do more than what they expect. Mary fights to be able to be “the first” so she can be an engineer and help create these shuttles. The fact that these black women were able to push past the barriers placed in front of them, it leaves the viewer, especially if you can relate, encouraged, determined. It’s so very well told as well.
The Bathroom scene. Without spoiling, there is this fantastically tremendous scene where Al Harrison asks Katherine where she goes when she disappears. Because there isn’t a colored bathroom in that area, she has to run about a mile to the West Campus just to go to the bathroom. It happened to have rained that day too. Taraji almost had me in tears during this scene due to her acting. Amazing. Katherine’s frustration, her pain of being treated that way, everything just came to the surface and she was no longer quiet about it. Ugh, such a great scene. If Taraji is nominated for an Oscar (which I think she should be), this should be the scene they show.
Cons:
Mixing old footage with the film footage. I didn’t think they needed to have that in there. You know, like putting in the old archived footage and then kind of having it blend out into the new footage? Wasn’t really necessary, we know it’s based on a true story, plus, what they do at the end in the credits helps too, so that was a little out of place.
Overall,
I loved Hidden Figures, it’s a feel good, inspiring movie. It’s one of those movies that will make people want to go and read the book, or go and research more about this because it’s so interesting, so great. I think what really shines here though is the acting/performances. It’s almost one of those films where what is remembered the most is the performances, what the actors did with these characters. Yes, there are memorable scenes, but it really boils down to the acting. I thought the three leads were fantastic, Taraji was superb. I completely get why Octavia Spencer has been nominated for her role, I’m not taking that away from her in any sense, however, I don’t think it’s legit that Taraji P. Hansen hasn’t really gotten any award recognition for her role and she’s the lead and she was fantastic. I hope she gets more recognition. I think Pharrell’s music was a nice blend for the movie, of being modern and of that time period, I thought Hans Zimmer’s score was lovely. The costumes were nice, the movie is funny and I loved the friendship between Mary, Dorothy and Katherine. Hidden Figures is a must see.
Rating: 4. 60 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Hidden Figures? If so, what did you think about it? Let me know in the comments below. Don’t forget to follow and like this blog!