The Morning After: Mar. 16, 2015

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:

Michael Collins

Looking back at the path to Irish independence, Neil Jordan brings the story of Michael Collins to the screen. A man forced to fight to liberate his homeland from the strict control of the British empire, Collins (Liam Neeson) shifts from a crusader who’ll do just about anything to win to a man who will take what victories he can if it means further success farther down the line.

Neeson delivers a tremendous performance, his best work outside of Schindler’s List. His support is incredibly strong including Aidan Quinn as his friend and confidant; Alan Rickman as a foreign national fighting for Ireland, but only to protect his own desires; Stephen Rea as a government official working at once for and against the Irish Republican Army; and several others in strong supporting roles. The only actor miscast in this film is Julia Roberts who shifts in and out of an Irish accent with such frequency that it’s hard to tell what she’s doing. Her overall performance is in her upper tier of successes, but it’s far from her best work.

Jordan’s attention to detail and ability to paint enemies and friends in differing, complex shades, exemplifies why his work as a director was frequently, criminally underrated. Unfortunately, his passion for films like this and The Crying Game may explain why they succeed so effectively while other works in his oeuvre are less impressive.

The Preacher’s Wife

Based on the classic black-and-white film The Bishop’s Wife, The Preacher’s Wife modernizes the tale and explores the desperation of a preacher (Courtney B. Vance) whose world is crumbling around him. His church is falling apart, his congregation is uninspired and his matrimonial relationship is fraying. He’s on the verge of losing his faith when he prays for a miracle and is sent a protector in the form of an angel named Dudley (Denzel Washington).

Whitney Houston co-stars as the titular wife, a choir leader whose faith is stronger than her husband’s, but who can’t seem to get through to him no matter what she tries. As Dudley attempts to boost the preacher’s confidence and lead him towards a path that will bring him success, the preacher’s stubbornness and reluctance to change may keep him from finding his way.

As a director, Penny Marshall has an uneven history. While A League of Their Own is a brilliant film, expertly directed, The Preacher’s Wife is a generic picture with no style or panache. Also, when you have an actress with a voice like Houston’s, it’s no surprise that you want to fit in any chance you can to get her to sing, but the result is a chaotic hodge podge of unnecessary scenes that barely further the story and drop the audience out of the film for a short musical interlude.

Vance’s performance is the best of the bunch and Washington is affably excellent. Even Houston does a fine job, though there are several scenes where her reaction shots are mystifying or her emotions are too jubilant for the cause. There’s solid support, but when you’re in such a familiar story with familiar characters resolving familiar situations you can’t get too excited when the final result is just too familiar.

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