Leonard Nimoy Passes at 83.

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Today, I want us to take a minute to honor a great man we lost yesterday. Leonard Nimoy. The man who would be known as Spock, the half-human, half-Vulcan member of the Starship Enterprise in the original Star Trek series, its animated sequel series, and several of the films.

Most recently seen on the series Fringe (of which I am a major fanboy), Nimoy had kind of retired from acting, returning only to previously created characters to continue the arcs he created for them. His most recent major role was in a cameo role for Star Trek Into Darkness. Below is a list of titles most notable for the actor, as well as his final message to his fans, in the form of a tweet.

Thank you Leonard, and, as always, LLAP.

Selected Filmography:

  • Them! (1954)
  • Star Trek (1966-1969)
  • Mission: Impossible (1969-1971)
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973-1974)
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
  • The Transformers: The Movie (1986)
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
  • The Pagemaster (1994)
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
  • Star Trek (2009)
  • Land of the Lost (2009)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
  • Zambezia (2012)
  • Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

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Independence Day (1996)

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Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Maragert Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein

Screenplay: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich

145 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi destruction and violence.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound

In the annals of film history, it would be a tough time attempting to find a movie that depicts the destruction of all mankind better than Independence Day from director Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, White House Down).

On July 2nd, the world discovers that we are not alone in the universe as massive spaceships make their way to every major city. Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith, Men in Black, Focus) has to cancel his 4th of July plans and head back to base. President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman, Lost Highway, The Equalizer) has to deal with the floods of looting and scared citizens while also trying to reunite with the First Lady (Mary McDonnell, TV’s Major Crimes, Donnie Darko). David (Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park, Mortdecai) has figured out a pattern in the signals of the alien ships, and thinks he is seeing a countdown to something big. As the world is cripple in fear of the alien menace, mankind is about to re-earn their independence.

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Independence Day is one of those movies that seems perfect when at first glance, but after multiple viewings, the plot-holes become more apparent. There are severe issues with this plot, but the film is still a culty pleasure (see what I did there?).

The performances from our stars (Smith, Pullman, Goldblum) are all serviceable to keep the hype up throughout the action set pieces. The only issue with the characters portrayed is that they aren’t written to experience catharsis. Their “catharsis” is only due to the impending death of the human race. Goldblum’s David is my personal favorite as the man who has tremendous potential but chooses to waste it. His character represents an interesting dilemma: should a man use his full potential even if he likes things the way they are? Hmmm. James Rebhorn (Scent of a Woman, The Game) also turns in some fine work as Albert Nimzki, who has specific thoughts and secrets which make President Whitmore’s decisions all the more difficult.

The cinematography focuses a lot on spectacle. It is meant to show us just how screwed we are, and it works well enough.

The score is another important piece of this puzzle, something haunting and rhythmic while empowering the American ideals of freedom and military superiority.

There are some great uses of miniature work in Independence Day. Some of the explosions do seem extremely dated, but the grandiose visual effects were well worth the Oscar win.

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Independence Day is returning to the big screens soon with a sequel (perhaps two). As far as the first film goes, Independence Day is a lot of fun. Not a particularly great film, but a classic nonetheless.

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Roland Emmerich’s 2012, click here.

Taken (2008)

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Director: Pierre Morel

Cast: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Holly Valance, Katie Cassidy, Xander Berkeley, Olivier Rabourdin, Gerard Watkins, Famke Janssen

Screenplay: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen

93 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language.

 

There was a time, not too long ago, when Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, A Walk Among the Tombstones) was not thought of as an action star. Think about that. Think about it.

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Bryan Mills (Neeson) is a retired CIA agent who spends his time in solitude while trying to build a relationship with daughter Kim (Maggie Grace, Lockout, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2). When Kim wants to go to Paris with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy, TV’s Arrow, Monte Carlo), Bryan’s ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen, TV’s Hemlock Grove, X-Men) is fine with it, but Bryan has his reservations. When his fears become true and Kim and Amanda are kidnapped in Paris, Bryan’s old CIA skills rise up and take over as he heads to France to find his daughter and get her back…and get revenge on those who took them.

Taken was a bit of a surprise for me. While I liked Liam Neeson from his work in Batman Begins and Schindler’s List, I never thought much on the one-man army concept working for him. I was wrong, and am happy for it. This is a nonstop thrill ride of immense proportions. Neeson kills it as Mills, and director Pierre Morel (From Paris with Love, District B13) keeps the film rollicking along. It isn’t perfect, but it is one of the better films to be dumped during the dry season for action films.

There isn’t anything truly special about the cinematography or the editing, the music is pretty nice but nothing amazing, and the direction isn’t going to win any major awards, but the film is still a fun time carried by a veteran performer and his ability to win fans over.

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Taken is pretty great, but not entirely well-made. See it for Neeson. See it. For Neeson. Yeah.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Neighbors (2014)

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Director: Nicholas Stoller

Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco

Screenplay: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien

97 mins. Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout.

 

I thought the trailer for Neighbors was too good to be true, and while in some ways, it did feature a lot of the best material, the movie itself was a laugh riot. It’s my review next.

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Neighbors features Seth Rogen (This is the End, The Interview) as Mac Radner, who along with wife Kelly (Rose Byrne, X-Men: First Class, Annie), have just settled in at home with their new daughter. Unfortunately for them, they have new neighbors, as a fraternity has just set up shop next door, and leader Teddy (Zac Efron, 17 Again, That Awkward Moment) is about to seriously complicate Mac and Kelly’s lives in his quest to create the biggest party ever and end up on the fraternity wall of fame in this new film from director Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek, The Five-Year Engagement).

This film immediately appealed to me with a somewhat unique take on the feuding neighbors concept, and with two complete opposites as Rogen and Efron, as well as the comedic additions of Byrne and Dave Franco (21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie), I thought this movie might actually have something to it. To my satisfaction, I was right. The film, featuring increasingly absurd acts of war upon each other, features some of the funniest lines and gags of 2014. I had a few moments of complete laugh attacks.

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Stoller has nearly mastered the type of films he makes, and Neighbors is no exception, with a tight plot structure and the envelope-pushing battles of old versus young, it has the laughs to become a repeat-viewing film. I know fans of Seth Rogen’s films will find a lot to like here.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

(Seriously, that whole condom thing. Yuck.)

The Equalizer (2014)

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Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo

Screenplay: Richard Wenk

132 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, including some sexual references.

 

I recently got into The Equalizer, a classic television series, after seeing it referenced in The Wolf of Wall Street. Good show, interesting structure and grit.

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When I heard that the series was getting the big-screen treatment in the form of a Denzel Washington (American Gangster, 2 Guns) vehicle from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen), I was intrigued, but I felt like it wouldn’t get the attention it deserved because of the many revenge vigilante franchises abound today. As it turns out, I was right.

Robert McCall (Washington) works at Home Mart, and has a pretty simple life. Work followed by a nice calm read at a local diner where he usually sees Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass, If I Stay), a young prostitute. After Teri is brutally beaten by her pimp, McCall goes on the offensive, searching for vengeance against those responsible. Once he is involved, a Russian Mafia enforcer named Teddy (Marton Csokas, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Sin City, A Dame to Kill For) hunts McCall, beginning a battle neither wants to lose.

I felt like the basic problem of The Equalizer is a simple one: oversaturation of the market. Too many other similar and better films exist and have been ingrained in popular culture. The Equalizer just isn’t as unique as it thinks it is.

Denzel does fine work, but the script feels lazy and Antione Fuqua’s style comes off as a ripped-off amalgam of Sherlock Holmes and The Bourne Identity. The film loses all traction the moment that Teri is removed from the story as she is tragically forgotten about thirty minutes in.

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If you want to see a movie like The Equalizer, you can definitely save money by picking up a better film with a similar story elsewhere. One can only hope that Washington can pick himself up from this recent tread of lackluster films. Hope.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2015oscardeathrace] My picks!

Here we are! The Oscars are beginning! Here are my picks…

 

Best Picture

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Boyhood

 

Best Director

Will Win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Should Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman)

 

Best Actor

Will Win: Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Should Win: Michael Keaton (Birdman)

 

Best Actress

Will Win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Should Win: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

 

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Should Win: Edward Norton (Birdman)

 

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Emma Stone (Birdman)

Should Win: Emma Stone (Birdman)

 

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Should Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr, Armando Bo (Birdman)

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win:  Graham Moore (The Imitation Game)

Should Win: Jason Hall (American Sniper)

 

Best Animated Feature

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Should Win: Song of the Sea

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Will Win: Leviathan

Should Win: Timbuktu

 

Best Documentary

Will Win: Citizenfour

Should Win: Finding Vivian Maier

 

Best Original Score

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Interstellar

 

Best Original Song

Will Win: “Everything is Awesome” (The Lego Movie)

Should Win: The Lego Movie

 

Best Sound Editing/Mixing:

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Interstellar

 

Best Production Design

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: The Imitation Game

 

Best Cinematography

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Interstellar

 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Will Win: Foxcatcher

Should Win: Guardians of the Galaxy

 

Best Costume Design

Will Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should Win: Inherent Vice

 

Best Film Editing

Will Win: Boyhood

Should Win: Boyhood

 

Best Visual Effects

Will Win: Interstellar

Should Win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

 

 

You can follow me for live-tweets during the event @AlmightyGoatman

What are your picks? Let me know!

[Oscar Madness] The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

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Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis

Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson

178 mins. Rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences and some scary images.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Cinematography
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Makeup
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Music, Original Score
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ian McKellan)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Director
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Direction
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Costume Design
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Film Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Song (“May It Be” by Enya, Nicky Ryan, Roma Ryan)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound

 

Some projects are doomed from the very start. Imagine filming three movies at the same time, on one budget, and having creating a trilogy between them of at least 11 hours in length. Yeah, Peter Jackson did that.

Sir Ian McKellan in a scene from THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, 2001.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring follows Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Cooties), a hobbit from Hobbiton. He lives with his uncle Bilbo (Ian Holm, Ratatouille, Renaissance) who is celebrating his eleventy-first birthday (that’s 111 to you non-hobbit folks) and has just left Frodo with his magical ring of power which he found sixty years earlier. What Frodo and wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Prisoner) are about to discover is that this ring is the powerful One Ring of Sauron, a dark lord who used the ring to take over the land long ago. Sauron had been destroyed, but the ring of power had passed along looking for its master to reunite and bring back an age of darkness and despair. Now it is up to Frodo, his gardener Samwise (Sean Astin, TV’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis), and their fellowship of seven others, including elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Three Musketeers), dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Anacondas: Trail of Blood), and the mysterious ranger known as Strider (Viggo Mortensen, A History of Violence, On the Road) to get the ring of power to the one place where it can be destroyed: the fiery Mount Doom in the land of Mordor. There’s just one problem: Mordor is where the Eye of Sauron is still looking for his ring with armies of orcs at his disposal.

This film is staggering in scale. It is almost too realistic for a fantasy film, it just sucks you in. The plot here is immensely entertaining due to director Jackson’s attention to detail and knowledge of J.R.R. Tolkien’s source material. The screenplay, by Jackson and fellow writing team members Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (with whom he also penned The Lovely Bones and King Kong), is incredibly engaging and equal parts exhilarating and fun.

This is Elijah Wood at his career best. His portrayal of Frodo, a hobbit who is only used to the good parts of life and used to only happiness, solitude, and relaxation, now thrust unto this great quest, is deeply personal. I saw in Wood’s performance a hobbit who looks up to his uncle for all the adventures he has been on, but also doesn’t really want to live them.

Viggo Mortensen here is another strength (of which the entire cast is). Strider is a character with deep levels of history and emotion, a true well of sadness. Mortensen plays it to perfection.

I also truly loved Sean Bean (GoldenEye, Mirror Mirror) as Boromir, a man entrusted to Frodo’s fellowship who has a weakness for power and believes that the ring holds the key to saving his homeland.

Peter Jackson isn’t afraid here to get down and dirty and display epic-sized battles for his audience. This movie chooses to show, not tell, and it is totally worth it.

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In fact, just about every aspect of this film could be classified as stellar. It happens to be my favorite of the six Middle-Earth films Peter Jackson has poured his soul into. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is incredible on just about every level. Take a trip to Middle-Earth with me, and enjoy yourself along the way.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, click here.

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, click here.

[#2015oscardeathrace] Begin Again (2013)

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Director: John Carney

Cast: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, James Corden, CeeLo Green, Catherine Keener

Screenplay: John Carney

104 mins. Rated R for language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (“Lost Stars” by Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois) [Awards Not Yet Announced]

In Begin Again, Dan (Mark Ruffalo, The Avengers, Foxcatcher) is an recently unemployed music producer who has just discovered Gretta (Keira Knightley, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), a young woman with a rare voice who isn’t interested in pursuing a character. Dan has a strained relationship with daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit, Pitch Perfect 2) and her mother Miriam (Catherine Keener, Captain Phillips, Enough Said), but not Gretta provides a much-needed inspirational boost to Dan who wants to use her to get back in the game.

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Begin Again is little more than a cheese-filled sandwich trying to disguise itself as a movie of substance. These characters are flat and uninspired and there are better versions of them sprinkled throughout better films. I found myself checking my watch out of boredom several times here.

The film is almost completely improvised and it proves one thing very well: these actors should not improvise lines. There are entire sequences of uninspired and uninteresting exchanges between the characters.

As for the Oscar nominated son “Lost Stars” from Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois, it isn’t that bad. A nice song sung in several different ways throughout the film. Not deserving of the award, but perhaps worth the nomination.

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Begin Again is a carbon-copy of so many other films just like it, with one exception: somebody smudged this copy somewhere along the line. Just keep in mind: there are better films about the music industry. Many.

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2015oscardeathrace] The Judge (2014)

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Director: David Dobkin

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Billy Bob Thornton

Screenplay: Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque

141 mins. Rated R for language including some sexual references.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert Duvall) [Awards Not Yet Announced]

 

What happens when a judge becomes the suspect in a murder?

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In The Judge, Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr., The Avengers, Chef), a high-powered defense attorney, is going to home to bury his mother who has just passed. Being barely on speaking terms with his father Joseph (Robert Duvall, The Godfather: Part II, Hemingway & Gellhorn), a small-town judge, Hank wants to get in and out and on his way. But when Joseph Palmer is charged with vehicular manslaughter in the death of a man he let off easy years earlier, Hank stays on to help his father as the two rebuild their fractured relationship.

I would like to see Downey take on work that flexes his abilities better than the same character he has played in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and the recent Sherlock Holmes films. That being said, Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall have tremendous chemistry, or anti-chemistry, in their portrayal of father and son on the brink of collapse here. These two save an otherwise faulty film with some major flaws.

First of all, Hank’s rekindling of a friendship with old flame Samantha (Vera Farmiga, TV’s Bates Motel, The Conjuring) comes off as boring, unneeded, and somewhat silly. It could’ve been sliced and brought this film down to a more accessible two hours. The courtroom scenes are far less engaging than they should be, wasting the talented Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon, Entourage) on what almost seems like an extended cameo at most.

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The score here is great and the two leads have some truly tense and unforgettable scenes, but overall The Judge is too long and too little about actual courtrooms. The entirety of Joseph’s criminal trial is uninteresting and useless at building anything. The Judge could have been better under a more capable set of hands (director David Dobkin is known for his goofy comedies like Wedding Crashers and The Change-Up and less so for anything serious).

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2015oscardeathrace] The Imitation Game (2014)

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Director: Morten Tyldum

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, Mark Strong

Screenplay: Graham Moore

114 mins. Rated PG-13 for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Benedict Cumberbatch) [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Keira Knightley) [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Directing [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Editing [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score [Awards Not Yet Announced]

 

Hey wait, before we begin, take a look at that MPAA rating. “Historical Smoking.” Seriously? Many of you know my thoughts on the MPAA, so this gives me a giggle. Of anger.

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I’m sure you’ve heard of Alan Turing. I have. But I didn’t know him. Not much. This is the story of a pivotal few years in Alan Turing’s life.

Mr. Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch, TV’s Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness) has just hired to break a code. A code called Enigma. The only problem is, Enigma gets reset every night at midnight with a new cipher created by a machine, and people are dying every minute that it isn’t solved.

Alan has been charged to solve Enigma every day, when the odds are stacked against him. What can solve an unsolvable code?

The Imitation Game is an elaborate true-life thriller covering major pieces of the real life of Alan Turing, including his relationship with Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Laggies).  The two performers (who are actually friends) have great chemistry in the roles. Fantastic supporting work from Matthew Goode (Watchmen, Belle) as Hugh Alexander, the man running the project to break Enigma, and Charles Dance (TV’s Game of Thrones, Alien 3) as Commander Denniston, the man just looking for a reason to fire Turing, who has some secrets of his own.

Cumberbatch here gives a pointed, tragic spin to Turing here, his performance is so deeply saddening, it is reminiscent of Tom Hanks’ great turn from 2013’s Captain Phillips. I love how we get bits of Alan’s life to fuel the story rather than just someone yelling at the screen “ALAN LIKES TO GO RUNNING!” When Cumberbatch shows us a man who has given everything to solving the puzzle that when the question is finally asked, “How do we thank him?” the answer is rather heartbreaking.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing with Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke in The Imitation Game.

The Black List (an annual list of the most popular unproduced screenplays) for 2011 had The Imitation Game smack dab on top and it’s hard to think of why it took so long for this film to reach the screen, but I’m happy it did. This is an engaging film for the all the action it doesn’t need to show and all the pure gold acting work given by the cast. Definitely worthy of its Best Picture nomination.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe