Posts tagged "Dark Waters"

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2019

December 31st, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on “TOP 10 FILMS OF 2019”

The 2019 Year in Film has come to a close and while the domestic box office totals are down about 4%, that still means it was an $11.4 billion year. Of course, Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame” ($357.1M) and the live-action remakes many of which pulled in more than $100M, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” ($363M), and Warner Bros. “Joker” ($1.06B), contributed mightily to the year-end total, but none of these films made my Top Ten Films of 2019 list. To me, the big box office hits aren’t necessarily my favorites. 2019 was a year of literary adaptations and films based on true stories and these are the stories that hit home. Without further ado, and starting with #1—I know you’d glance at the bottom of the list for #1 so why not start with it?—the Top Films of 2019.

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: This is a story about Lloyd Vogel, a jaded and emotionally hardened journalist whose life is touched and forever changed by the children’s television icon Fred Rogers. The story is an unusual one from an equally unlikely perspective that makes us laugh and cry, but more importantly, it reminds us of the power of kindness and the healing attributes of love. Imaginatively created, Marielle Heller takes the director’s reigns and allows Tom Hanks to bring Rogers to life while capturing this compelling and entertaining story based on the Esquire Magazine article by Tom Junod. (In theaters now) WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

THE IRISHMAN: A surprisingly emotional mobster story about right-hand man Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) who looks back on life through his own rearview mirror, recalling his relationships with mob leader Russel Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Based on Charles Brandt’s true crime book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” Martin Scorsese directs this compellingly complex narrative, taking us into a lesser known world while allowing us to somehow develop a connection with Sheeran, a man with regrets and lacking a moral compass. While it is violent, it’s a part of the story and never gratuitously, but somehow it also frequently finds humor as well. (Now on Netflix)

DARK WATERS: This isn’t the first film about how large chemical companies disregard regulations or put their bottom line before the health and safety of its workers and communities and it won’t be the last, but Rob Bilott’s (Mark Ruffalo) story in “Dark Waters” will change your life. As a film, it’s a slow-burning thriller keeping you on the edge of your seat as you watch the events unfold feeling consumed as if by a tidal wave of emotion and information. It’s a current-day “Erin Brockovich” that doesn’t effect just one area of WV, but each and every person in the U.S. Based on Nathaniel Rich’s article in the New York Times Magazine, you’ll think twice when you hear DuPont’s familiar slogan, “Better living through chemistry.” (Available on Amazon and iTunes Dec. 31)

JOJO RABBIT: Only director Taika Waititi could take author Christine Leunens’s book “Caging Skies” about a little Nazi boy during WWII whose pretend friend is Hitler and make it into a socially relevant dark comedy that both entertains and educates. Roman Griffin Davis stars as Jojo who finds that there’s a young Jewish girl hiding in his attic. Wrestling with being a good little Nazi, Jojo grows up and opens his eyes to the reality of the world surrounding him. Thomasin McKenzie and Scarlett Johansson co-star in this utterly bold and daringly funny coming of age story. (In theaters now)

FORD v FERRARI: The mere title alone makes you think this is a car racing movie, but it is so much more than that. Based on the true story of race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) and Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), director James Mangold revs up our engines as we witness history and the true meaning of friendship and loyalty. It’s a fast-paced story allowing both Bale and Damon’s chemistry to shine and give humor and depth to this story. The stellar cinematography puts you in the passenger seat making this film a winner. (In theaters now)

PAIN AND GLORY: Like “The Irishman,” this film looks back on a life filled with uncompromising and raw honesty, but unlike the Netflix film, there is beauty and love packed into this suitcase of life and regrets. Pedro Almodovar writes and directs this film, a depiction of his own life, as Antonio Banderas has the lead role of Salvador Mallo, and it’s one of the most evocative performances of his career. This multidisciplinary approach to film with layered complexities about social acceptance, expectations, relationships and following our hearts allows us to know Salvador as we reflect on our own lives. Flashbacks develop situations that will become heartbreaking in the current day, but in the end, we see that this has made Salvador who he is today. Isn’t that all of our stories? (Available on Amazon Jan. 14, DVD Jan. 21)

THE MUSTANG: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s prison story stars Matthias Schoenaerts as Roman, a violent criminal who is given the opportunity to participate in a horse rehabilitation program. This revelatory and gorgeously shot film reassesses humanity and our need for connection seen through the lens of the withdrawn inmate. Schoenaerts captures the dark void of hopelessness and slowly finds a connection and life through a wild mustang. Bruce Dern has one of his best performances in recent years as a horse trainer, giving heart to his gruff and jaded exterior. (Available on Amazon and on DVD now)

JUST MERCY: Attorney Brian Stephenson’s novel is adapted for film starring Michael B. Jordan as the litigator fighting for the rights of wrongly accused men on death row. Like the book, which I highly recommend, the film portrays many men’s stories, but the focal point is Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) whose story is comprised of racial bias and blatant racism. Jordan’s understated performance and Director Destin Daniel Cretton bring this true-life gripping crime story to full light, opening your eyes and your heart. (Opening in theaters Jan. 10)

OPHELIA: Shakespeare and feminism rarely go hand in hand, but thanks to the clever adaptation of Lisa Klein’s book, Director Claire McCarthy allows Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) to tell the classic tale of “Hamlet” from a different point of view. With plausible backstories of Claudius (Clive Owen) and Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), the plight of Hamlet and Ophelia not only makes sense, but is a captivatingly tragic love story. And the ending would make Shakespeare himself proud. (Available on Amazon Prime now)

THE REPORT: Adam Driver has had quite a year, but his performance as Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones is a standout. Based on the true story of a nearly 7,000 page document called “The Torture Report,” writer and first-time director Scott Z. Burns brings this chilling tale of discovery from our not so distant past to life. With incredible relevance to today’s political world, we dig deeply into the underpinnings of our system. It’s a complicated one, but thanks to the deft writing and storytelling, we understand the truth behind what was meant to never be seen. It’s an all-star cast comprised of Jon Hamm, Annette Bening, Corey Stoll and Driver who give performances of their career. (Available on Amazon Prime now)

Tied for 11th Place: “Knives Out,” “Richard Jewell,” and “Clemency.”

“Dark Waters” finds new depths in corporate greed

December 5th, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Dark Waters” finds new depths in corporate greed”

Trust. It’s a word that seems to represent a sparse commodity these days and director Todd Haynes takes New York Times’ journalist Nathaniel Rich’s article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” and shows us just how very true this is.

Mark Ruffalo stars as Rob Bilott, a Cincinnati lawyer whose firm represents large chemical companies, but a visit a farmer, Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) from Bilott’s hometown in West Virginia turns Bilott’s world upside down as he finds himself on the other side of the legal bench, fighting against one of the most powerful chemical companies: DuPont. The story becomes a legal thriller as Bilott uncovers and discovers the coverups from this massive industry who appears to value the bottom line over human welfare.

Bilott is an unassuming and seemingly typical lawyer in the corporate world, but immediately upon his exchange with Tennant, we see he is a man with integrity. It helps that Tennant knows Bilott’s grandmother, affectionately referred to as “Gramers,” and Bilott strives to appease her. Bilott ventures from Cincinnati to Parkersburg, WV to visit Gramers and then Tennant’s farm filled with haunting scenes of catastrophic proportions as Tennant shares his theory of DuPont poising the creek water that runs through his farmland. This is when the mystery begins and Bilott plunges in head first. This will become a decision that will affect him, his firm, family, and ultimately an entire community and their futures in ways he could have never predicted.

Taking place over decades, Bilot carefully gets his feet wet, slowly wading into the tidal wave of information as we witness the youthful Bilott initially trusting all with whom he contacts in DuPont. This youthful naïveté is soon shaken as Bilott is then swamped by an endless number of boxes containing the requested “disclosures” from the chemical giant. Meant to deter him from proceeding, Bilott just dives right in, his tenacity keeping him afloat as he strives for justice. From our vantage point, these discoveries are encouraging but at the same time simply horrifying.

Director Haynes dissects this story with the precision of a surgeon, slicing ever so delicately to expose the truth creating one of the most compelling storytelling styles imaginable. The film is an intellectually stimulating one as we, along with Bilott, learn the necessary components of chemical bonding and product development as well as the regulations of the EPA. It’s engrossing and captivating, and sadly, as this film is based in truth, we see the dire consequences of big money steam rolling over the everyday Joe. On the other hand, the film gives us knowledge and with that comes power; the power to make changes and raise awareness to protect ourselves.

Ruffalo is the star and champion, bringing Rob Bilott’s personality to life. This humble and driven man isn’t your typical hero, but his integrity, loyalty, and willingness to go against the grain in order to protect those who cannot protect themselves makes him one. His body language, never confident and certainly not stereotypical of a high-powered corporate lawyer, endears us even more to him. Anne Hathaway portrays Sarah, Rob’s wife, and while her role is small, it’s vital in giving Rob a fully developed character. Their home life is affected by this case and we see the sacrifices she has made for him, the children, and herself in order to support her husband. Without her realistic performance, Bilott’s character would have felt more two-dimensional.

Adding to the authenticity of the film and the dire feeling of what is revealed is the cinematography. Creating and capturing those hauntingly disturbing images of affected livestock, children, and even pets, is punctuated by the endlessly grey skies. The sun seems to never shine, creating an atmosphere that is as haunting as the images we see.

This isn’t the first film about how large chemical companies disregard regulations or put their bottom line before the health and safety of its workers and communities and it won’t be the last. However, not since “Erin Brockovich” (2000) have we had an important narrative feature film about the subject. There are innumerable documentaries which address similar subjects all around our country, but perhaps we needed the star power of the man who is more widely known as The Incredible Hulk to shed a light on what’s happening in our own back yards and help prove that “better living through chemistry” isn’t true.

“Dark Waters” is a powerful, compelling, and necessary story to tell as it has you on the edge of your seat, mesmerized by each and every scene. With incredible performances that are never showy and a story that is gripping, it’ll change how you view your own world and your own definition of “trust.”

4/4 Stars



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