Archive for Will Smith

Concussion: A Strong Team Doesn’t Quite Deliver on All Its Promise

Posted in 6, Drama, Ratings, Reviews with tags , , , , on February 5, 2016 by mducoing

ConcussionAmerica’s love affair with football is no secret. And the inherent violence in the sport, the almost obsessive need for bone-crushing crashes and heart-stopping groans at each down, is virtual law. It is with this in mind that Concussion enters our collective consciousness, the story of a much darker side of the beloved sport. And as the story of Dr. Bennett Omalu’s discovery of CTE, the specter that terrified the NFL unfolds on screen, audiences will find it hard to look away.

Premise: In Pittsburgh, accomplished pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu uncovers the truth about brain damage in professional football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play. Result: A fair but disjointed biopic.

Concussion follows the standard biopic formula, offering three basic story lines: first, the story itself, of CTE, the great medical discovery Omalu’s (Will Smith) makes after the madness and subsequent death toll of aging Pittsburgh Steelers players mounts. Next, we have Omalu’s victimization at the hands of the NFL and rabid Steelers fans apparently bent on his destruction and erasure from history. And then, of course, the depiction of Omalu as more than a doctor but as a man, with human needs met only by a woman that literally falls into his life.

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After Earth: If Only We Could Return to Before This Film

Posted in 4, Action, Ratings, Reviews, Sci Fi/ Fantasy with tags , , , , , on June 5, 2013 by mducoing

After EarthDirector M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, The Happening) is followed wherever he goes by controversy.  Not so much by the content of his films but the nature of his directorial decisions.  This may have had something to do with the strategy to keep his name away from promotion for After Earth, a film he not only directed but adapted from the Will Smith story.  If only Smith had kept him away from the film altogether, After Earth may have stood a chance.

Premise: Space dad and son crash land on Earth, where the son must overcome fear to save their lives. Result: A jumbled, predictable action snoozes at best and a preposterous spiritual journey for small mammals at worst.

The film takes place in a future after humans have essentially ruined the Earth and depleted it of its natural resources.  Humanity has fled to a new world to settle, a world where another race of hostile creatures lives.  So hostile to human settlement were these creatures (who knows why, it’s not like humans destroyed their own planet or anything!) that they engineered monsters known as Ursas that basically stalk humans by following the pheromones they release while afraid.

Of course, there was one human, Cypher Raige (Will Smith), who is “so without fear” that he is able to kill Ursa’s without being detected.  This becomes known as “ghosting”, an ultra-sophisticated military term for someone able to overcome all fear by simply choosing not to be afraid. I’m not making this up people!

Fast-forward to a future where the war continues  with Kitai Rage (Jaden Smith), Cypher’s son, who on paper is an ideal candidate but once in the field is crippled by fear (no spoiler alert here but even Helen Keller could see this storyline coming from beyond the grave. )

Cypher, who is always traveling for work (you know, saving lives across worlds) appears to have no relationship with his son, and is implored by his wife Faia (Sophie Okonedo), to spend time with his son and help him grow.  Evidently, there is residual Trauma from the death of his daughter Senshi, (Zoë Kravitz), at the hands of the Ursas.

Cypher decides to take his son on a training journey to another planet to bond with him.  But after some esoteric space event ensues, the ship is transported inadvertently back to Earth and promptly disintegrates within the atmosphere.  Only two survivors with limited resources and a broken emergency beacon remain.

Add in a severely broken leg, a hostile planet, and an Ursa on the loose and this situation is downright catastrophic (we can tell because of Cypher’s rigid tone). It should be noted that Earth is a class-one restricted planet, prohibiting humans from landing – why this is the case is unclear: while the atmosphere is not wholly suitable, they live on a warring planet with actual creatures whose only object is to stalk and kill humans – someone needs to reconsider matters here.

As it turns out, Cypher can’t move and the only functioning emergency beacon is in the tail of the craft, now multiple days’ journey from their present location.  Only Kit can make the journey, a personal nightmare for both parties involved.

But Kit accepts the challenge and leaves his father behind, venturing into a terrifying world.  The journey itself is the only remotely bearable aspect of the film, as there are some interesting action sequences and strange creatures that Kit must face that allow our collective adrenaline levels to rise above comatose. Add in an inevitable confrontation with an agitated Ursa and a series of random flashbacks and we have ourselves nothing particularly special.

The acting in the film is largely what would be expected in this film, even if all participants are hindered by the “Shyamalan-Gravitas-Effect”, a strange, artificial over-dramatization brought on by poor direction.  Weighted by this directorial effect, each character’s demeanor and performance appears forced and unnecessarily ponderous, ironically detracting from its believability.

Smith is passable despite this burden, although his perpetual militaristic tone makes him seem miscast and his absurd scowl as if he is always one line away from a “Whatcha Talkin’ About Willis?”  Fortunately, his experience helps him carry the role well enough that when Cypher begins to crumble, we can sense real emotion.

Sadly, the other Smith, Jaden, is simply unwatchable for the majority of this role.  His affected voice and cadence appear as if he has devoured a bale of hay while his rigid delivery borders on mannequin.  It is only his action scenes, thankfully, that provide any respite from this blundered performance.

Overall, this film is worth missing in its entirety.  First, the film is thoroughly predictable, an issue that Shyamalan has yet to overcome and sadly continues to ruin his virtually unrecoverable brand.  His films view like parables for children where proper foreshadowing is an elusive technique just beyond reach.

Second, his insistence on delivering profound messages ultimately transforms those messages into unimaginable, unmemorable clichés. His grade school morality and obsession with fate and transcendence comes off as trite and ultimately unwatchable.

Finally, the film itself isn’t that interesting.  There is no real reason that this film involves Earth at all other than a desire to obliquely chastise Humanity’s destruction of the environment today.  Further, entre elements of the alien story are presented and then ignored later, making the story feel incomplete.

Ultimately, this is another miss from Shyamalan.  As an action, Sci Fi adventure it is barely passable.  As a profound, introspective personal or spiritual journey it is lucky to make it on the 99-cent value menu.

Rating: 4 – A case of PBR and a “Dear John” letter

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