John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls serves as both a living portrait and an insightful view of ‘The Maverick,’ who has helped mold our American politics and country forward.
The world is a fine place
And worth the fighting for
And I hate very much to leave it
— Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
This quote kick-starts the documentary of the influential US senator. The documentary is also titled For Whom the Bell Tolls because that is McCain’s favorite book. Mr. McCain has used the book as a guide for his life and after everything he has done and been through, it seemed like a fitting salute for the senator. In this hectic new world now known as the ‘Trump Era,’ HBO’s newest documentary of the Arizona senator is a breath of fresh air. John McCain has served our nation for more than 31 years of public service. Severing as a Republican throughout his tenure, Mr. McCain is still very well liked on both sides of the aisle. Due to his incredible bipartisanship on many issues, Mr. McCain has even been given the nickname as ‘The Maverick.’ His willingness to disagree with his party on certain issues continues to show why he stands out from other politicians in congress.
And in the documentary, For Whom the Bell Tolls, HBO forms a journalistically sound profile of a flawed, but ultimately admirable man. That is the difference that sets Mr. McCain apart for other politicians, is his ability to admit when he is wrong. Produced and directed by six-time Emmy winner Peter Kunhardt (HBO’s Jim: The James Foley Story, King in the Wilderness), along with Emmy winners George Kunhardt and Teddy Kunhardt, portray an illuminating profile of McCain in an exclusive interview of one of the most influential forces in modern American politics. McCain has been through it all, during the Vietnam War, he became a naval aviator and flew ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. While McCain was on a bombing mission over Hanoi in October 1967, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese.
“During that period of time, they decided to escalate the air war over North Vietnam. We started striking targets inside Hanoi. … A missile took the wing off the airplane, so I ejected. When I hit the airstream, it broke my arm and also my leg.” He was a prisoner of war (POW) until 1973. This time as a POW stripped away nearly 6 years of his life. During these years, McCain experienced episodes of torture and refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation offer. The wounds that McCain sustained during war have left him with lifelong physical disabilities. After he was freed by the North Vietnamese and returned home, McCain retired from the Navy in 1981, moved to Arizona and decided to enter into politics shortly after. For Whom the Bell Tolls includes a fascinating passage about McCain’s evolving views on the Vietnam War. The doc also digest’s his relationship with fellow veteran and political opposite John Kerry, while they were serving in congress. There’s also some blunt talk about the disintegration of McCain’s first marriage to Carol. “He was looking for a way to be young again,” Carol says of John’s affair with Cindy, who eventually became his second wife. “I was blindsided, and it broke my heart.”
The doc doesn’t shy away from the senator’s missteps, there’s a segment about the Keating Five scandal of the 1980s and McCain’s side of trying to be fully transparent during the scandal. He made a campaign finance reform one of his signature concerns, which eventually resulted in passage of the McCain–Feingold Act in 2002. Along with the intoxicating stories of McCain’s past, we are also greeted with lifelong friends, family members and fellow politicians as well. People like: his wife Cindy McCain, daughter Meghan McCain, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President and good friend Joe Biden, former President George W. Bush, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and former Senator Joe Lieberman. During the 90s’ we see McCain work to restore diplomatic relations with Vietnam and succeed. The doc then brings us to a heated battle during the 2000 South Carolina primary campaign, where McCain and Bush were fighting for the top spot. Bush narrowly defeated McCain in a stunning upset. After the primary, McCain regretted not speaking out against the Confederate flag when he was asked. He later apologized for not having called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Statehouse.
''I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary so, I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth.'' Mr. McCain went on to say that his Confederate forefathers ''fought on the wrong side of American history.'' ''I don't believe their service, however distinguished, needs to be commemorated in a way that offends, that deeply hurts, people whose ancestors were once denied their freedom by my ancestors,'' he said. In Spring of 2005, McCain was a member of the bipartisan group known as the Gang of 14. They played a key role in reducing a crisis over judicial nominations. 'The Maverick' also talked about his regret towards choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate for the 2008 Presidential elections, whose selection proved to be disastrous. McCain instead wanted then-Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a former Democrat and now Independent. He was advised that it would not be a wise choice. In the end, McCain should have stuck with his gut. Sadly, in July of 2017 McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer but that hasn’t stopped the senator from continuing to fight and speak out. Most notably, his thumbs down last August to not repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). A snub to Trump. The documentary doesn’t mention Trump's name once and I believe that to be a good thing.
The current President tends to suck the life out of the subject matter, like a black hole. Take July 2015, as an example, when Trump mocked McCain for being a POW and stated that, “he’s not a war hero.” However, McCain has press-forward, demonstrating some of his toughest criticism towards the current Commander-in-chief. Example: “To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.” McCain tweeting about his disapproval towards the current administration’s stance on trade and our allies. In the end, this documentary was all about McCain and his bipartisanship towards moving a country he dearly loves. I have deemed myself as an Independent when it comes to politics. There are people on both sides, Democrat and Republican, that I look up too. On the right, McCain has always been the one I’ve connected with most.
While, I haven’t agreed on all of his stances throughout his career, the fact that he has a fighting spirit, works very bipartisan in our congress and is completely transparent, are all the more reasons why I look up to him. It’s also a reminder that not so long ago, Democrats and Republicans actually were civil to and respected one another. For Whom the Bell Tolls, is an intimate portrait of one of the bravest American hearts beating for our nation. “I know this is a very vicious disease,” says McCain of his condition. “I greet every day with gratitude … “I’m also very aware none of us live forever. … I’m very grateful for the life I’ve been able to lead. And I greet the future with joy.” To ‘The Maverick’ that keeps on fighting, we applaud you and your service Mr. McCain. Or as Mr. Obama better put it: “John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I've ever known. Cancer doesn't know what it's up against. Give it hell, John.” Today, these bells keep on ringing.
John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls is Not Rated (NR).
Review: A Quiet Place
Don’t make a sound… A Quiet Place is an astonishing movie. This original creature feature will ruthlessly keep you on the edge of your seat from the first frame until the last.
Actor-director John Krasinski (The Office and director of The Hollars) has proven his talent in his second feature length film, A Quiet Place. Krasinski along with his wife, actress Emily Blunt, play fictional husband and wife in this scary new picture. The dynamic is great, as the two have an already developed relationship outside the screen. Both Krasinski and Blunt’s raw performances will knock you off your feet. It was a film that I was not expecting to be up to this kind of grand magnitude. The silence used as a center piece in the film was brilliant. It kept me on the edge, while Krasinski was tightly building the tension and suspense throughout. And, as for Blunt’s performance? It was a complete tour de force for her. Exceptional in every way with her silent emotions running wild, it will frazzle your inner conscious.
The year is 2020 and most of the human population has been wiped out by these mysterious monsters that attack by sound. So, a family of four must live in complete silence to survive from day-to-day. And by toning down the dialog and amping up the natural sound, we get a razor-sharp thriller. Another aspect that A Quiet Place got right was its central focus on the individuals in the family. I can’t tell you the last time I cared this closely for the characters in a horror picture as I did for the family in this film. A Quiet Place provided fully developed characters that gave us reason to grow with them in the brisk 90-minute screen time. Actress Millicent Simmonds plays the eldest daughter in the family, who is deaf in the film and in real life. Krasinski stated that he sought for a deaf actress because, "... for many reasons, I didn't want a non-deaf actress pretending to be deaf. Most importantly though, because a deaf actress would help my knowledge and my understanding of the situations tenfold. I wanted someone who lives it and who could teach me about it on set."
And Simmonds’ performance in the movie is powerful. She excels her persona from the first scene until the last. A Quiet Place artfully places your elements of fear and cinematically changes the game of what a horror picture should look and feel like. This is a smart film and breaks away from the normal clichés that have hinder past and current horror flicks. It’s 2018, and what I found so fascinating was Krasinski's ability to make a near silence movie and Millennials ate it up. This in part, is thanks to a really strong musical score, great sound design and a building tension that will send chills down your spine. A Quiet Place is mostly nonverbal, but it’s so well done. The bathtub scene with Mrs. Blunt was one of the most nerve-wrenching scenes I’ve witnessed in a horror flick. A Quiet Place came into theaters quietly, then pounced on its prey, leaving viewers everywhere shaken.
A Quiet Place is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For terror and some bloody images.
Tully is a raw and honest portrait on the hardships of motherhood, backed by a powerful performance by the great Charlize Theron.
Parenthood is hard and Tully helps shed light to those hidden realities. Yes, being a parent is a blessing, as you help and watch your child grow into this modern world of ours. But, there can also be extreme trials that comes with it. In Tully, we see this through Charlize Theron’s character of a mother who is struggling with postpartum depression after giving birth to her third child. It’s a raw, but a sincere approach to this tough material. Director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air and Young Adult) is no stranger to dealing with these kinds of harsh realities. He hits it head-on in the film, but also crafts the subject matter with a gentle touch. This also marks the fourth collaboration between Reitman and script writer Diablo Cody, following Juno (2007), Jennifer's Body (2009) and Young Adult (2011).
So, Marlo (a strong Theron) is now a mother of three including her newborn, when she and her husband (Ron Livingston) are gifted with a night nanny by her brother (Mark Duplass). Marlo is hesitant at first but comes to form a unique bond with the new nanny named Tully (a wonderful Mackenzie Davis). Marlo sees her younger self through Tully, as the two form an endless friendship. Tully is only 26, but seems to anticipate Marlo's every need. It's Tully who gets up at night to care for the baby, only requiring Marlo to awake for breastfeeding. It's Tully who bakes fresh goodies for the kids to take to school and cleans the entire house at night. If mom has issues with baby weight or her sex drive is off, Tully offers her advise on both matters. "She'll grow a little overnight," Tully says to the newborn, named Mia. "And so will we." "You're like a book of fun facts for unpopular fourth graders," Marlo exclaims!
Together; these two actresses are dynamite and their acting will cut you deep by the final third act. Tully helps Marlo move forward in life as she battles the balancing act of life, kids and depression. It is also in the final act when her husband, Drew, finally wakes up and when realizes that his wife is emotionally and physically drained. Drew seemed to take the out-of-touch approach when his newest daughter was born. A lesson that shows how important communication is and how parenting is a two-person job. Many in a conservative society throw all of these pressures and responsibilities onto the wives, while the husbands mindlessly tune out the world through other activities. Like Drew did with his video games. This is a mindset I know that, and will strive to never fall into, when my wife and I start our family one day.
It’s more than breaking those social norms, it’s about being there for your wife, partner or significant other at all times. It’s about equalness between the two, something my wife and I strive to do in our marriage. We are equal and we are on this journey together. More reasons why I admired this movie because it was a real look at modern parenthood with a clear message. In doing so, Tully also broke down multiple barriers still hindering certain aspects of our conservative society. Both Glynis and I really enjoyed this movie. It was a deft blend of dark humor and bleak honesty through the lens of a bona fide mother. In the end, this is a film that packs in a punch. It will leave you and your partner talking hours on end about these types of hardships awaiting in the near future and how to tackle them together.
Tully is rated R (Restricted). For language and some sexuality/nudity.
Review: Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War is an emotionally heavy superhero flick, while also being one of Marvel’s most ambitious films to-date. At the end of the credits, sobbing fans everywhere will be anxious for more to come.
Coming in at the 19th film to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Infinity War has heart and sets the stakes up for the grand finale to the Avenger’s portion of the franchise. While, it is not the best superhero film because it does have flaws, nevertheless; this is a movie that is full of emotion and gives us already developed characters to care about. The action set pieces are pure fun for geeking out on, while the tone of the movie never reverts to dull or to grim. The Russo brother’s (Captain America: The Winter Solider and Civil War) also do a great job juggling an array of packed MCU heroes into its 149-minute clock time. It has been an unprecedented cinematic journey, ten years in the making and spanning the entire MCU, Marvel Studios' Infinity War brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time, cue Thanos (A powerful and vulnerable Josh Brolin).
The Avengers and their Super Hero allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe. That’s our stage and in the process the film gathers in Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Vision (Paul Bettany), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Sam Wilson/Falcon, Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Heimdall (Idris Elba), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Wong (Benedict Wong), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Shuri (Letitia Wright).
That’s a mouth full, but the MCU has been crafting and developing these characters on the screen for the past decade. We have grown to love them and have attached a bond with each one. That makes it hard when you see some of your favorite characters gone on screen before your very eyes. I won’t spoil who dies, but there will be blood. Brolin’s portrayal of Thanos is worth applauding, he gives our antagonist a soul. Yes, Thanos is out to restore order to the universe, but there’s a price that he must pay. By doing this, we see Thanos wrestling with his feelings. You can feel his struggle, but also get a taste of his dark side. The complexity of a multilayer superhero flick isn’t easy to pull off, but the Russo bros. manage the enormous task and do so. They also infuse action, humor and drama into one nicely packaged superhero movie expierence.
It’s no doubt that Infinity War would become a major hit. It shattered the worldwide and domestic opening weekend records, by pulling in $641 million worldwide and $258 million domestically. And as of now, it has grossed $2 billion worldwide in the last 46 days. Making it now the fourth highest grossing movie ever, behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Titanic and Avatar. There will be no doubt, that Avengers 4 could become the highest grossing movie ever surpassing Avatar. We will find out next year. This emotionally resonant summer blockbuster is worth the ticket price and will have fans everywhere on the edge of their seats. Our heroes have never faced this kind of danger and it is one that will leave you shattered at the end. With the snap of a finger, Infinity War has come and conquered the screen.
Avengers: Infinity War is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references.
Review: Isle of Dogs
Wes Anderson’s (Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel) definitive canine masterpiece is a force to be reckon with. Isle of Dogs is 2018’s hidden gemstone, full of vivid direction, lively storytelling and a top-notch voice cast. Right now, it’s the best film to hit the theaters.
Director Wes Anderson’s newest stop-motion creation was fresh and cinematically engaging. Let’s get down to the basics, Anderson is his own genre and has crafted so many grand little indie films that they have radically transformed the film industry as we know it. Films like: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel and now Isle of Dogs. All of these films are incredibly unique, but still hold that Anderson pizzazz that makes them great. In Isle of Dogs, we get fully developed characters (human and animal), backed by a tremendous voice cast (Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Ito, Greta Gerwig, Akira Takayama, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Abraham, Courtney B. Vance, Yoko Ono, Harvey Keitel, Ken Watanabe, Mari Natsuki and Tilda Swinton). Now, that’s what you call a full house.
On top of this, our fury canine’s narrative was nothing short of brilliant, along with the film's eye-popping visuals. Our story begins with an outbreak of canine flu in Japan and that leads all dogs to be quarantined on an island. A boy (voiced by a radiant Rankin) journeys there to rescue his dog Spots (voiced by a grand Schreiber) and gets help from a pack of misfit canines who have also been exiled. His quest inspires a group of dog lovers to expose a government conspiracy. Behind these band of misfit dogs include Chief (Cranston), Rex (Norton), Boss (Murray), Duke (Goldblum) and King (Balaban). Each actor embodies their own personality into the animal, giving us a better understanding of them. Cranston provides the gruff leadership, while Norton has more of the rather quirky personality. Murray and Goldblum both give us wit and humor, while Balaban infuses a more awry trait into his fury friend. Out of all of these character’s, Cranston’s Chief stands out the most. Notably, because his character is the most humane and vulnerable ("I'm not a violent dog, I don't know why I bite").
And let’s not forget about the stunning stop-motion. At times, I didn’t even feel like I was watching a stop-motion picture because it was so well crafted and full of life. Anderson has also melded a film full of homage and tribute to the Japanese culture and cinema. Cultural appropriation one screams! Maybe, one could argue? Many Twitter critics have jumped to this conclusion and not actually watched the movie. I would advise doing so, to better craft your opinion of Anderson’s work. However, one of my first reactions to the movie was that it was like a love letter to Japanese cinema. Many on Twitter have also used film-critic Justin Chang’s (Los Angeles Times) review as a “battle cry” for pushing their negative agenda against the film. However, Chang has stated that "I wasn't offended; nor was I looking to be offended.” Yet again, another example of people not fully reading someone else’s writing and only taking small critiqued sentences to push their negativity.
I advise fully reading Chang’s review because it is incredibly well-written. I also advise watching Isle of Dogs in its entirety because it really is a worthy movie to appreciate. Anderson's film has heart companied by deadpan humor and a message for every dog lover out there. All-in-all, Isle of Dogs is an incredible film and needs to be watched by the masses. Fingers crossed, that Isle of Dogs doesn’t get lost in translation this awards season. A good friend of mine, told me that she’s rooting for this movie to receive a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars and to completely skip the Best Animation category. I completely agree and back her opinion. Isle of Dogs has proven that it’s a worthy film to be up in the ranking for Best Picture. Frame-by-frame, Anderson’s love for dogs artfully comes full circle. In the end, Isle of Dogs is an imaginative work of art, but it comes with a bite.
Isle of Dogs is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For thematic elements and some violent images.
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