Tag Archives: Leslie Odom Jr.

One Night in Miami (2020) Review

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One Night in Miami

Time: 114 Minutes
Cast:
Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X
Eli Goree as Cassius Clay
Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown
Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke
Director: Regina King

On the night of Feb. 25, 1964, in Miami, Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) joins Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), and they discuss the responsibility of being successful black men during the civil rights movement.

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One Night in Miami was one of the big awards movies recently, and it was receiving quite a lot of praise from those who have seen it. It was based off a play focussing on a fictionalised meeting between 4 major famous African American figures in the 1960s. Not only that, but it’s Regina King’s directorial debut, so with all of those factors, I was looking forward to this movie quite a lot. I have to say, it really had lived up to all the hype and is very deserving of all the acclaim.

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As I said, the movie is based off a play, and you can definitely that is a stage movie. With that being the case the dialogue would have to be great as it’s carrying much of the movie, and the dialogue is brilliant, incredibly well written and compelling. The structure of the story really worked for me because it showed each character living their separately lives at the beginning, and then coming together in Miami. It does take a while to get going, but by the time the four main characters meet up, you’re invested in the characters and the movie. It is a pretty simple movie, mostly taking place in one general area, but the screenplay dives into many conversations and holds your attention the whole way through. It becomes a heated debate of the Black experience between the 4 people. The topics range from Islam, to music, and especially about each of their influences on the civil rights movements. The most interesting conversations were the ones between Sam Cooke and Malcolm X, those two are particularly in conflict mainly because their approaches were very different. Much of the movie is powerful and thought provoking, as well as very relevant. From beginning to end I was invested.

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TOne of the highlights of the movie are that there are truly outstanding performances from the main 4 actors, that being Eli Goree as Cassius Clay (AKA Muhammad Ali), Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown, Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke, and Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X. The chemistry between these 4 were great, you really believe that they are friends and they play off each other very well (especially in their lengthy dialogue scenes). In fact it’s pretty hard to pick a best performance between them, all of them deserve a lot of praise.

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Regina King is a fantastic actress as we’ve seen with performances in Watchmen, If Beale Street Could Talk and more, and now she’s a director. This is her debut film, however the direction feels very assured, as if it wasn’t a debut. I definitely want to see what she makes next. On a technical level it’s great, it’s shot and edited very well. There are plenty of problems that directors face when having to adapt a play to a movie. The movies always end up feeling like plays, and can often end up just being people in a room talking with long monologues. While One Night in Miami does have those to a degree, King actually manages to make the movie feel somewhat cinematic. So while at first it might not appear to be anything special or flashy, her work here is great.

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With an excellent script and amazing performances from its leads, all under the confident direction from Regina King, One Night in Miami is a very impressive movie that I was invested in from beginning to end. Check it out as soon as you can, it is well worth your time.

Hamilton (2020) Review

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Hamilton

Time: 160 Minutes
Cast:
Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson
Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler
Jonathan Groff as King George III
Christopher Jackson as George Washington
Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton
Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr
Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison
Anthony Ramos as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton
Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton
Director: Thomas Kail

The original Broadway production of the award-winning musical that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda), first secretary of the treasury, blending hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway styles, filmed from the Richard Rogers Theater in New York.

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I heard about the acclaimed musical Hamilton for some time. Outside of one song however, I really didn’t know much about it, aside from it being about the founding fathers and Lin-Manuel Miranda being the person who created it. With one of the showings being put on Disney+ however, I knew I should probably watch it and see for myself if it worked for me. I’m glad to say that it very much did work for me, and I had a great time with it.

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Reviewing Hamilton is a bit weird, I’m essentially reviewing a musical, and it’s not even a film adaptation. However, I’ll try my best. I’m not an American History expert, according to some people the musical is accurate in terms of what happens, but I won’t judge it on that level. Though I think the casting and the fact that it is a Broadway musical should automatically give an indication that this probably shouldn’t be taken as being 100% accurate, and shouldn’t be the prime source of education about the founding fathers of America. It is 2 hours and 40 minutes long and it is a long running story, a lot of things happen over the course of the musical, it even has some actors playing more than one character. As overwhelming as it was going into it blind, especially as someone who didn’t really know what to expect, I was pretty invested throughout. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, and it becomes surprisingly emotional at points. By the end I was quite satisfied with what I had watched.

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The whole cast of actors do very well in their part in both acting and when it came to singing. The creator of the musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda plays the lead of Alexander Hamilton and does well on his part. I knew about Miranda from other things, with Mary Poppins Returns and His Dark Materials, but I think he did a good job here. I will say that his singing wasn’t the best, especially when compared to the others in the cast, but more than makes it up for his acting, especially in the latter half of the film. There were a few actors who really stood out, Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom were particularly outstanding in their parts of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Jonathan Groff was only in a few scenes but was fantastic as King George III, a hilarious and entertaining performance that was very memorable in his onscreen moments.

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A big part of the movie is the music, and I thought it was really good. It is one of those musicals where every line is singing, but they pulled it off. A musical about the founding fathers doesn’t sound particularly like it’s prime music material. However the songs are pretty great (there are so many of them too), well written, and there was a lot of genres mixed in including rap, hip hop, jazz and Broadway, and it made the music and overall musical stand out and very entertaining. I’ve only watched the movie/musical once, but with every song on this from this first viewing, I found all of them to be very solid. Production values are top notch too, the choreography was great, and I can imagine it would’ve been a blast watching it in the theatre. In terms of the filming for the movie on Disney+, the direction from Thomas Kail was handled well, and really captured the show as best as possible.

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I really had no idea if I would like Hamilton going in, but I found it enjoyable, entertaining, and I was engaged from beginning to end. For those who haven’t seen it yet, I think it’s worth seeing it for yourselves, and by experiencing it first on the Disney+ version, you won’t have to pay money to buy tickets to watch it in person. I will say that I’m not sure how I’d feel about it on a rewatch, this is just from the one viewing and it was a lot to take in as it was. However, I think it’s really good and I’m glad I saw it.

Harriet (2019) Review

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Harriet

Time: 125 Minutes
Cast:
Cynthia Erivo as Araminta “Minty” Ross/Harriet Tubman
Leslie Odom Jr. as William Still
Joe Alwyn as Gideon Brodess
Janelle Monáe as Marie Buchanon
Creator: Kasi Lemmons

From her escape from slavery through the dangerous missions she led to liberate hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) is told.

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I heard about Harriet because of the awards attention it was receiving, mainly for Cynthia Erivo’s performance. Although I didn’t know that much about her, I heard about how Harriet Tubman was a truly significant historical figure, so I was at least interested in the movie for that, even if it looked like awards bait. While the movie unfortunately isn’t as great as it should’ve been, it was alright and better than I thought it would be.

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Now I can’t speak as to the accuracy of the movie to real life events. I did a brief Google search and clicked on a few articles, and according to what I found, much of what’s in the movie is accurate, however there’s a lot more that the film didn’t cover. Parts of the movie feel very formulaic and a little cliched. Even if these events played in real life like they did here, they didn’t really make it feel fresh or genuine. It also feels a little rushed, while also feeling like there’s a number of things that the movie didn’t cover. From the looks of things, maybe a mini series would’ve been better for the story, but just judging it as being done as one movie, some of the plot and storytelling choices were a little odd. With that said, as someone who knew nothing about Harriet Tubman, I was somewhat interested in the movie from beginning to end in its roughly 2 hour long runtime, just not as much as I hoped I would.

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Cynthia Erivo is the star of the show as Harriet Tubman, and she is really good. I liked her work in 2018 with both Bad Times at the El Royale and Widows, and once again she has shown herself to be a great actress. If there’s a reason to watch this movie, it’s for her performance. The rest of the cast are fine, there wasn’t quite a weak link, but most of them weren’t anything special and stood out either. Out of the supporting cast, Janelle Monae stood out the most in a minor role, playing a character who was created for the movie and didn’t exist in real life.

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The direction of Harriet by Kasi Lemmons was decent. While the movie can look really good at some points (especially with some of the locations), some of the way it was shot looks like a tv movie. The costumes and productions design are good enough and fit the time period and setting. Something that occurs often in the movie is that there are some visions that Harriet has. Now to be fair to this movie, these apparently happened in real life, but the way it’s shot and edited made it come across a little silly in the film (again, like a tv movie).

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Harriet is an okay movie but unfortunately it doesn’t rise above that level, especially disappointing for a movie about such a significant figure in history. The direction is fine, the writing is mostly okay, the supporting cast is good enough, but there’s not a lot in the movie that’s better than that. The exception is Cynthia Erivo’s lead performance which was good, and really was the only reason to see the movie. Even then though, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s a an absolute must see just for her work alone, as good as it was. I guess if you’re committed to watching every Oscar nominated performance, or if you’ve got 2 hours to spend, then it might be worth checking out if you’re curious about it.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Adult Themes
Cast
Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot
Tom Bateman as Bouc
Penélope Cruz as Pilar Estravados
Willem Dafoe as Gerhard
Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff
Johnny Depp as Samuel Ratchett
Josh Gad as Hector MacQueen
Derek Jacobi as Edward Henry Masterman
Leslie Odom Jr. as Dr. Arbuthnot
Michelle Pfeiffer as Caroline Hubbard
Daisy Ridley as Mary Debenham
Marwan Kenzari as Pierre Michel
Olivia Colman as Hildegarde Schmidt
Director: Kenneth Branagh

A lavish trip through Europe quickly unfolds into a race against time to solve a murder aboard a train. Everyone’s a suspect when Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) arrives to interrogate all passengers and search for clues before the killer can strike again.

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I was curious about Murder on the Orient Express, I had never read the original book or watched any adaptations. It was the cast and crew involved that had me interested, especially with Kenneth Branagh directing and starring. As someone who hasn’t seen any version of the story beforehand, I ended up thoroughly enjoyed Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express. The performances (particularly from Kenneth Branagh) and the direction really make this movie. It does have some issues (particularly with its characters) but its good elements far outweigh the weaker elements overall.

I can’t comment on any similarities and differences between this and the original book or other adaptations, so I’ll just treat it as its own thing. It’s not a flashy typical Hollywood whodunit, it is slower paced and feels restrained. I can see a lot of people getting bored of this movie so if you’re going to see it just know that it is very slow paced. The pacing didn’t bother me personally, it felt just right. I was quite intrigued throughout the whole movie, my attention didn’t waver once. This movie has a surprisingly amount of effective humour, especially from Branagh’s Poirot. One issue that I had is that there is so much going on that at times it is hard to follow. At the end, even though I understood most of what happened, I had to look up the plot to clarify certain things. You have to be paying close attention or you could miss details, I know because I was paying attention and I didn’t pick up all of it. The second problem and probably the biggest problem is the handling of the supporting characters. The supporting characters aren’t developed or fleshed out that well. You might be able to remember some aspect about them (like in terms of the actor or the character’s job) but that’s about it. So when names are being thrown all about by Poirot as he theorises what happened, it’s a little jarring and at times hard to follow what’s going on. Its hard to remember these supporting characters, I can barely remember any of the supporting characters’ names, save for a couple.

This movie has a lot of A list actors but the true star of this movie is Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot. He is a little over the top but it works, Hercule is a quirky and likable character and its basically worth watching the movie for this performance alone. Also he manages to sell that over the top handlebar moustache. We have a large and talented supporting cast with Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz, Leslie Odom Jr., Johnny Depp and others. For many of those who have had long careers like Judi Dench and Willem Dafoe, their performances here aren’t going to rank up as one of their best but they play their part well, in fact everyone plays their parts rather well. A stand out to me was Josh Gad, who surprised me, he’s usually known for comedic roles in movies like Frozen and Beauty and the Beast. But here he proves that he is really good in a dramatic role. Even Johnny Depp was good, granted his performance was one of the weaker performances and he doesn’t have a massive amount of screentime. As I said, the actors played their roles well, it’s just that the characters really weren’t that fleshed out that well aside from Hercule. I have no issues about the acting however.

Kenneth Branagh directs the film very well. The cinematography is truly great, it’s beautiful looking. The long takes also help show just how big of scale everything is. It makes use of its locations very well. The editing also was top notch and worked well, especially in the scenes where Poirot is piecing together what happened.

I’m not sure how much you’ll like 2017 Murder on the Orient Express. I think you will at the very least appreciate and enjoy Kenneth Branagh’s performance and his direction. Personally, I really liked it, with the acting (especially from Kenneth Branagh) and the direction and the plot which is mostly done well. There are some aspects that didn’t quite work in terms of some of the characters but for the most part this movie does everything right. Branagh has mentioned that he was interested in doing more films with the character of Poirot and I am completely on board for that. I’d love to see him make a return.