All posts by Elizabeth Ussery

Unbroken? Speak For Yourself

Angelina Jolie’s sophomore feature, Unbroken, is the kind of film that you could probably only sit through once. Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s biography of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, Unbroken tries to give legs to the harrowing true story of a man’s journey from celebrated athlete to Japanese prisoner of war. This film, which Jolie terms her “passion project,” brings together Hollywood heavyweights behind the screen. The Coen Brothers (True Grit), Richard LaGravenese (P.S I Love You), & William Nicholson (Gladiator) join Jolie as screenwriters with Universal Pictures distributing. Jolie commits to an honest account of the brutality inflicted upon Zamperini during the film’s 137-minute runtime, but in doing so forgets that everyone’s tolerance for pain is not quite as limitless.

Continue reading Unbroken? Speak For Yourself

The Perfect Collision of Science and Music

The first person to receive praise for a great film is often an actor. And why not when they are indeed the faces that fill a million billboards and bus stop canopies. A strong case can be made for the director, or if a critic is feeling exceptionally inclusive, perhaps even the screenwriter. Of the hundreds of movies that I’ve watched since my adolescent self knew how to work a VCR, there have been very few times when I’ve thought the shining star was the composer – until I watched The Theory of Everything. Continue reading The Perfect Collision of Science and Music

The Verdict’s In: Strong Casting Outweighs Structural Faults in The Judge

Two for the studio, one for you — a variation of a phrase many an agent recites when talent decides that it wants less Marvel and more Nuart (a famous art-house theater). Travolta was tired of jazz squares and turned to Tarantino to bloody his leather pants to a pulp. Hathaway was over being a princess and quickly saddled into Lee’s controversial western, Brokeback Mountain. While some out-of-character performances mark a crucial turning point in an actor’s ascent, other performances such as Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in the recent release of The Judge shrink in the face of opportunity. Continue reading The Verdict’s In: Strong Casting Outweighs Structural Faults in The Judge

Black-Ish: If You Insist

That The Hollywood Reporter calls Kenya Barris’s new fall comedy Black-Ish “one of fall’s strongest comedies” of the season is a telltale sign that networks need to produce stronger comedies. Set around the daily routine of an upper-middle-class African American family, Black-ish introduces audiences to a quaint, and at times even funny, family of six who just want to navigate this brave new world of living large in a predominantly white environment.

At its best, Black-ish could facilitate a much-needed alternative to the current landscape of primetime comedy, which often scurries over more serious issues of socioeconomic status, race, and gender. Ironically, in its painfully overt desire to address these issues from a new perspective, Black-ish fails to broaden the representation of minority characters and instead perpetuates the flat, uninspired stereotypes that drove demand for something different. Enough with the ‘ish’ – it’s time to just be black.  Continue reading Black-Ish: If You Insist