Connect with us

Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Incendiary, The Willingham Case

Published

on

Mike Finkelstein recently saw a documentary that turned him inside out.  Here is his review for “Incendiary: The Willingham Case”.

PLOT: A documentary on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted for the arson murder of his three daughters in 1991.  Willingham always professed his innocence, yet despite expert criticism of the arson “evidence”, was executed in 2004.  This is the story of the execution’s backlash, and the possible political motives behind not letting the courts overturn the sentencing.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: In 1991, Cameron Todd Willingham’s house burnt down with his three daughters inside.  As Todd’s story goes, he was awoken by his oldest daughter, and when he couldn’t get his twins out, ran outside to where he thought his oldest was waiting.  Numerous witnesses said when he realized all three daughters were still inside, he had to be restrained and even handcuffed to stop him from running back in and facing certain death.  However, due to an expert fire investigation (or what was considered expert at the time), it was concluded that the fire was arson, and Willingham was tried and executed for a crime he denied until the very end.

The debate of guilt versus innocence would be worth 90 minutes of screen time in itself, but INCENDIARY actually only spends about 20 minutes on the case.  The rest of the time focuses on the following decade, and the growth of the case into something that can only be taken from the pages of a crime novel.  Was Willingham really guilty?  Did Governor Rick Perry know he was wrong when he didn’t save him?  Is the government still trying to cover their tracks even today?

INCENDIARY comes to us at a very interesting time.  Only a few weeks ago, Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia despite overwhelming evidence that he was wrongfully convicted, and massive protests by political figures, religious figures, celebrities and common folk.    At the same time, Texas Governor Rick Perry is one of the front-runners for the United States Presidency.  INCENDIARY subtly comments on both of these issues, making it both a piece that tries to help us learn from history, as well as something amazingly relative to today.

Steve Mims and Joe Bailey Jr’s goal is to pull the curtain on the Texas government (more specifically, Perry), and their (his) attempts to suppress a massive mistake.  Yes, from the first frame, we know that they believe Willingham didn’t commit arson murder.  With the expert testimony and footage they put together, you can’t help but agree.  You immediately relate when you think of all the corruption in the government today, of Troy Davis only a few weeks ago, and the flames of anger and resentment ignite.  You think about our president possibly being a man who will go to great lengths to cover his tracks, and you get riled up.  It’s just another example of something gone wrong that may never be put right.

More interestingly, however, is how at the end of the film, you realize that while you’re pissed and have all these facts to lead you to the “right” answer, you actually don’t know if Willingham was guilty or not.  There is just enough of a seed of doubt planted in your head to get you wondering, including a beautifully placed final commentary that completely flips everything you were being led to believe up until that point. Why would Mims and Bailey do this?  Because while they want their voices and their reasoning heard, they also realize that there is another side to it.  They give the viewer just enough to feel educated, but make him want to research more on his own, almost as if they have that much confidence in both their film and their point of view, that they want you to decide for yourself.  That says a lot.

In the end, INCENDIARY leaves you on a note best described as unnerved and uncomfortable.  No matter where the battle ends up or who uses Willingham’s case as their poster case, there are two very simple, disturbing questions that needs to be answered: Was an innocent person murdered, and Is corruption in our government that bad?  Mims and Bailey ultimately want you to decide that for yourself, but they give a hell of a persuasive start.

GRADE: A-

Mike’s LIKES:

1) VISIONARY STORYTELLING: With every topic discussed, the film never stays static.  It always tells its story through beautiful imagery and pictures.  Visually stimulating even during long batches of monologue.

2) COME TO YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS: An open ending lets you decide what you really want to believe.  It gives you the beginning of the research, and now it’s your turn to look into the topic further and figure out what you decide is the truth.

2) “ATTORNEY/CLIENT PRIVILEGES”: Disturbing final line of the film that will have you thinking long after you left the theater.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) MORE ABOUT WILLINGHAM: Would have loved to know more about Willingham, himself, but I was motivated to do my own research afterwards, which is more powerful than just being told everything straight out.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Official Site to Support Willingham – www.CameronToddWillingham.com

Entertainment

REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

Published

on

“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Featured

Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

Published

on

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

Continue Reading

Movie Reviews

MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

Published

on

world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

Continue Reading

Trending