Archives for posts with tag: Denzel Washington

Grade B

A character study of a black man (played by Denzel Washington) in 1950s America who had big dreams that remained just that.  Washington is middle-aged, works as a garbage man, has a loving wife (played by Viola Davis), two children and a house —  a decent living by most standards, but Washington is unhappy despite the many times we see him smile and grin.  Unfulfilled dreams, the bitterness he holds on to due to the racism he and many blacks endured for so long, and the constant repetition of his weekly routine year after year has taken a toll on him, making him do something that will threaten to destroy his marriage and everything he worked so hard to build should his secret come to light.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Fences” is the scene when **SPOILER ALERT** Washington’s secret comes out and he has an explosive argument with Davis.  One can feel the pain, disappointment, and rage so much that Washington and Davis, for a moment, cease to be actors and become real people whose lives are rapidly crushed within a span of minutes.

For those who are unaware of the origin of “Fences,” it started as a play; and the movie stays true to its roots.  Heavy on the dialogue, a sparse cast, and few settings, “Fences” holds your attention purely on the spoken words and the great performances of Washington and Davis.

— M

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Grade B

Director Antoine Fuqua teams up again with Denzel Washington to remake “The Magnificent Seven,” a story of farmers and miners who are being forced out by a rich, vicious gold miner (played by Peter Sarsgaard).  Those who take Sarsgaard’s deal are given the short end of the stick; those who refuse the deal will wish they had taken the deal.   But a handful take an alternative route: hire their own gunmen to fight Sarsgaard and his henchmen.

The townspeople end up with seven hired men: a peace officer extremely fast with a pistol; a sneaky gambler who likes to use magic to get the upper hand on his enemies; a notorious killer; a sharpshooter; an Asian who is fast with guns and knives; a legendary tracker; and a Native American deadly with a longbow.  Seven against a hundred.  But the seven have an edge…they have time to fortify the town and set up their defenses; and they have dozens of civilians at their disposal to train and help in the upcoming fight.  The good guys are confident of their chances to win; unfortunately, Sarsgaard has his own surprise for the seven and the rest of the townsfolk.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Magnificent Seven” is the scene when Sargaard brings out a Gatling Gun (an early machine-gun) to bring hell to those who dared oppose him.  This scene gives a major wow factor, and it also gives its biggest shenanigan.  Why did Sarsgaard wait until his men were getting their asses kicked to bring out his special weapon?  Also, at the range the Gatling Gun was used for in this movie, I wonder how effective the bullets would have been once they reach the town.

The Western movie, as far as I know, is an art form originally created in America.  As long as entertaining movies such as “The Magnificent Seven” keep getting made every few years, this American art form will never die.

— M

Grade B-

Loosely based on the t.v. show, “The Equalizer” stars Denzel Washington as a quiet man who works in a tool/garden store.  He is very precise in his actions, likes to help those who need it, and his smiles come quickly; but when he is alone, a darkness can be seen in his eyes, hinting at a past that haunts him every day.

Unable to sleep most nights, Washington goes to a diner, drinks tea and reads.  Eventually, he becomes friends with another patron: a young prostitute played by Chloe Grace Moretz.  When Moretz becomes missing for a few days and turns up in the ICU of a hospital after a brutal beating by her pimp, Washington goes on the offensive, resulting in a bloody war between him and the Russian mafia and a few crooked cops.

First place for my memorable, movie moments of “The Equalizer” is the scene when Washington makes the Russian pimp an offer he can’t refuse.  Well, the pimp refused!  Washington locks the door, and in slow motion we see him eyeing the room and the four Russian mobsters within.  Washington calculates how he is going to go about destroying these hoodlums, and in what order.  The carnage that follows is highly gratifying.

Runner-up for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene that has Washington’s co-worker asking how Washington got the cut on his hand (from the scene mentioned above).  Washington’s reply is that he hit it on something stupid.  Nice!

Fans of fast paced, action packed, mindless movies should move on — this movie is not for you.  “The Equalizer” moves at a slower pace, similar to a novel.  It takes the time to develop characters and makes the audience care for what happens to them.  This sets “The Equalizer” apart from the typical, big-budget, Hollywood action flick.  Unfortunately, it also suffers from several shenanigans that plague said typical, big-budget, Hollywood actioners.  The biggest shenanigan is **SPOILER ALERT** the ending of the movie: after killing off most, if not all, of the east coast Russian mob (plus the big boss in Russia), Washington goes back to his daily routine, living in the same neighborhood, the same apartment, taking the same bus, and spending his late nights in the same diner.  What’s the big deal with this, you ask?  The Russian mob found out who Washington was halfway through the movie!  They knew his name, where he lived, where he worked.  How long before some friends or relatives of the mobsters Washington killed fire a rocket into the apartment where Washington lives?  Russian hit men would come out of the woodwork looking to make a name for themselves by trying to kill “The Equalizer.”  Washington’s character makes every effort to minimize collateral damage whenever possible; but by living out in the open, living in the same place, he is risking many lives when the war eventually comes to him again.  But for this big shenanigan, I would’ve given this movie a slightly higher rating.

— M

Russia is in a state of Civil War.  A politician with extreme, anti-western views has taken control of some of the Russian armed forces, including attack submarines and nuclear missile silos.  Surrounded by the Russian military that is still loyal to the government, this rebel threatens to fire nukes at all his enemies — the U.S. being one of them — if the Russian government doesn’t back off.

Enter Gene Hackman, who plays a captain of a U.S. nuclear submarine; and Denzel Washington, who plays the X.O. (Executive Officer, or 2nd in command) of Hackman.  Together, they will lead their team of submariners to the front lines of this nuclear stand-off, ready to fire off their own nukes should the madman rebel decide to make good on his threats.

But civil war isn’t happening just in Russia, it’s also occurring in Hackman’s sub.  Washington is a newcomer to the boat, and right from the start he and Hackman are not in sync; and when orders come to launch the nukes inside the sub, Hackman and Washington have differing views on how to deal with the orders. ­ It escalates into submariners choosing sides and pointing guns at each other…while they are being chased by a Russian hunter/killer submarine.

I first saw this movie in the theaters and I was awed by the intensity of “Crimson Tide.”  After multiple viewings over 2 decades, that still holds true for me.  Director Tony Scott has done another great job helping to create a movie that grabs your attention from the beginning, moving fast from scene to scene and highlighted by a kick-ass soundtrack provided by the extremely talented Hans Zimmer.

One of my most memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Washington takes command of the ship, citing laws in the US Navy universe for his reasons for relieving Hackman of his command.  At the same time Washington is doing this, Hackman barks orders to his men to have Washington arrested for mutiny.  High drama in deep seas!

My most memorable, movie moment of “Crimson Tide” has to be the scene when Hackman — showing a bit of his prejudiced nature — tells Washington of the famous Lipizzaner horses, highly trained and obedient animals that can do amazing feats of acrobatics…and the horses are all white.  Washington, smiling, says he is aware of the Lipizzaner; and that when they are born, they are black.   Ha ha!  This exchange of dialogue is amazing.  Oh, Lipizzaner are not white, they are gray…something I found out while doing a bit of research.

And now, here are a few honorable mentions in this movie: 1) there is a young and relatively svelte James Gandolfini before he became a huge star of “The Sopranos” (it’s very strange to see him without all the extra heft); and 2) Ricky Schroder is present in his first, big budget, Hollywood movie as an adult (it’s good to see child actors grow up and continue to have success in the business, and not get caught up in all that b.s. that many child actors get into).

Movie fans should know there have been many movies about submarine warfare going back to the 1940s as far as I know.  But there are only a handful that stand out: these are movies that are high intensity and bring to the audience a sense of what it must be like for those men in the submarines as they seek and evade the enemy.  “Crimson Tide” is one of those movies.   It’s not the best, however.  That honor goes to “Das Boot.”

— M

Denzel Washington and Robert Zemeckis give another great performance (as actor and director, respectively) in “Flight.”  Washington plays an airline pilot whose life is out of control because he is an alcoholic.  Before and during his last flight — which ends in a crash landing — Washington had been drinking and snorting cocaine.  It is clear the plane had a malfunction; and had it not been for the piloting skills of Washington (as well as his ability to stay calm and focused in the face of disaster), everyone on board would have died.  As it stands, he saved the lives of most of the passengers and crew.  But the fact remains that he had been drinking before and during the flight.  If he was completely sober, would it have made a difference?  Would everyone on board be alive?

These are some of the questions the movie asks of the audience, and there are no clear answers.  What is clear is that “Flight” is really about addiction.  All the people out there who are addicted to something, and how it can quickly destroy the lives of the addicts as well as those who are in proximity of the addicts.  The denials, the pressures that lead to the continued abuse of the substance of choice, and the long, hard road to sobriety and what it takes to arrive there.

One of my memorable, movie moments of “Flight” is the scene when the airplane is already upside down, and a stewardess, or flight personnel, or flight attendant, or food servers, or whatever the hell they call themselves now, unbuckles herself to crawl toward some dumbass kid who fell out of his seat and help secure him back to his seat.  I don’t know how to look at these people.  I’d like to say they’re heroic, but my first thought is “that was stupid.”  If I’m going to risk my life to save someone, that someone will be someone I care about; and not some snot nosed kid who isn’t intelligent enough to keep himself buckled in a plane that is in trouble.  Sorry, kid, my life is worth more than yours; plus I don’t like kids, so I’m just going to stay fastened to my seat and watch you get tossed around in the cabin and hope your crushed body doesn’t collide with mine.  It’s a tough lesson, but some people need to learn the hard way.

The most memorable, movie moment of “Flight” is the sequence when Washington maneuvered his plane in such a way that he was able to take it from a nose dive to a steady glide, leading to a somewhat controlled, crash landing.  It will make your heart race.

Some of you who watch “Flight” may have addictions of your own; and as you watch him struggle to find his way out, I hope it gives you inspiration to find your own way out of your self-destructive tendencies.   One thing that works for me: replace one addiction with another that is positive and constructive.  For example, I’m addicted to writing about movies that I watch, old or new.  It gives me an outlet for my need to write. It helps keep me focused.  And although I’m not making a penny doing this, it makes me very happy.

M

Ryan Reynolds plays a low-level CIA agent who babysits a safe house all by his lonesome.  No, it’s not the house that Katie Holmes used as she made plans to get away from the “Top Gun” actor with the overly big, front teeth.  A safe house is a temporary place that you can hole up in as you wait for the heat to die down so you can make your final getaway.  Huh.  Maybe it can be referred to Holmes’ situation.  But in this movie, it’s a series of places that Denzel Washington — a rogue, former agent of the U.S. — is sent to before the CIA can take full custody of him in the U.S.  “Safe House” should be called “Unsafe House” because the bad guys seem to know where he is most of the time.  What!  You think someone in the CIA is feeding the meanies information as to the whereabouts of Washington?  How the hell did you know!

Washington is like a black, Jason Bourne with a scary smile.  He has information on the dirty dealings of spy organizations such as the CIA (no way, those guys are heroes, they can never do bad things to anyone!), the British MI-6 (no, that’s not the new BMW car), the Mossad (no, that’s not an Indian dish), etc.  So naturally, he’s a hunted man, and they nab him.  Reynolds gets caught up in all this nonsense and he slowly realizes that the bad guys were sent by the same organization he works for.   D’oh! He should have read the fine print in his contract before signing up with the CIA.  I have a copy, and it states, “we have the right to f@#k you up whenever we feel like it.”

Did I like the movie?  Yes I did.  Just not that much.   How much?  That much.   “Safe House” is well-directed, moves fast, has lots of action, intense hand to hand fighting scenes, good acting, and it didn’t cost me anything to watch (thanks, library!).

On to the most memorable movie moment.  The sequence when the first safe house is compromised.  It has the feel of a horror movie.   Alarms go off, lights start flickering as the bad guys mess with the safe house’s power supply, rooms go dark, the nervous, CIA escorts of Washington take positions and wait for the numerous thugs to come to their floor…It’s an intense, high body count moment.

Another memorable part of “Safe House” is how cool Washington is when he’s being tortured, or when the bad guys are shooting their way in and he’s tied to a chair and can’t defend himself.  He doesn’t look worried.  He doesn’t even flinch.   I would’ve flinched.  Then peed my Hanes.  Then squirted out some feces.  Then cried as tears and snot mix to drip down my chin.  Okay, I’m not that soft.  When I was arrested and put in a holding cell, I didn’t beg or plead or cry.  I put on my game face and kept it as I was processed.  Then again, a dozen thugs with automatic weapons weren’t trying to kill me.

M

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