The Morning After: Feb. 4, 2019

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:


Director Adam McKay seems to have found a cinematic niche that needed filling. The political satire subgenre has been uninteresting or unabsent for years. With his follow up to The Big Short, McKay has proven adept at giving the world a fascinating, if somewhat bleak look at the various issues that face modern American politics.

Exploring the influence of former Vice President Dick Cheney from his days as a congressional intern to his hollowing out and eroding of the United States government, Vice walks a delicate line between honest portrayal of an odious man and convincing biopic that attempts to partially humanize someone whose vileness has created a dangerous precedent.

Christian Bale does fine work as George W. Bush’s running mate and the stellar cast melds well into their historical roles. The performances are astute and compelling in ways that make them convincing. While the film has numerous line-drawing moments that don’t quite fit the needs of the material, there are enough scenes that overperform expectations that combined, the film ends up being solid even if occasionally disjointed.

Bohemian Rhapsody

In what could best be described as a Hallmark Hall of Fame Biopic of the Week masquerading as a cinematic experience, Bohemian Rhapsody takes a lengthy period of celebrated band Queen frontman Freddie Mercury’s rise to prominence and his subsequent decline.

Rami Malek takes on the role of Mercury in a performance that has some very good moments, but feels underwhelming in several segments. The furtive glances and the depressive silences don’t quite dig into the flamboyant singer’s personality. That largely comes down to the inconsistent and uneven writing that plagues the narrative.

Mercury’s life wasn’t as rosily colored as Bryan Singer’s opus paints it. While it’s somewhat understandable to go out on a high note, such as the Live Aid concert at the end of this film, it also denies audiences a chance to understand the time Mercury lived in and the awful fate to which he was resigned. It’s a movie that misses solid opportunities to challenge the audience’s pre-conceived notions while painting a vivid portrait of one of history’s most compelling figures.

Green Book

A film that might have felt at home or even been somewhat controversial back in the 1950s, ends up being a gentle, but harmless story about the unlikely friendship between a brash Italian bouncer and a conceited black piano virtuoso.

You’d be forgiven if watching this film you were reminded of films like In the Heat of the Night or Driving Miss Daisy while watching Green Book, which features none of the hard edges one would expect from modern explorations of race relations during the Civil Rights Movement. Looking and feeling like a film made thirty or fifty years ago, director Peter Farrelly wants to explain to audiences how bad racism is, but to do so in the least threatening way possible.

When black filmmakers like Ava DuVernay (Selma) and Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) in recent years and Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman) and Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk) this year alone tackle these subjects, they are often more bold, confrontational and honest about their subjects. None of these films are exceptionally violent or lacking in softer tones, but they all look at racism as endemic rather than superficial.

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are fine in their roles, but the story surrounding them doesn’t give them anything genuinely juicy to sink their teeth into. They are performances that are adequate to the film’s needs, but little more. Nick Vallelonga, whose father is the central figure of this film, has co-written a screenplay like it’s an essay for his High School history class. It’s seldom critical and when it is, it’s lightly so. There’s canned defiance, predictable resolutions, and a general feeling that there was nothing genuinely necessary about this particular story being told.

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