Movie Review: Black or White (2015) – A realistic portrayal of a custody battle

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Usually, I’m not a big one for parental custody movies. I might be the one person on the face of the earth that didn’t like War of the Roses or Losing Isaiah. But I think in this case, I’m willing to make an exception, simply due to my deep, abiding love for Kevin Costner.

This is a parental custody movie with a twist. Successful attorney Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner) is a new widower who has just lost his wife in a car crash. Complicating matters is the fact that he has been raising his bi-racial granddaughter Eloise ever since her mother, his daughter, died in child birth. Conflict abounds when Rowena (Octavia Spencer) insists that custody be granted to Eloise’s father, her drug addicted son Reggie (Andre Holland). Elliot isn’t interested, especially seeing he blames Reggie for the death of his daughter. This starts a family feud that leads to a knock down drag out custody battle.

One thing I really, really like about this movie is no one is an outright villain. Elliot is stubborn and unable to forgive. Rowena wants to be part of her granddaughter’s life, but refuses to see what a mess her son is and how dangerous that could be for Eloise. Reggie is a crack addict that Elliot just can’t forgive, even though he faces his own addiction problems himself. This is a realistic portrayal of a custody battle. Both sides have their strong points and no one person is an evil villain. Despite the title, this argument is not one that is black or white.

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Another thing I liked was that the movie didn’t strictly focus on the racial difference. They weren’t ignored, but they weren’t the central part of the story. Instead, the story was based on each family thinking they could provide a better home for little Eloise. Race was mentioned, but unlike in Losing Isaiah, they didn’t make it the central focus of the argument. Instead, it showed both the good and the bad of each side of the family. Elliot might have been a privileged man, but his home was huge and empty and he used booze to mask his problems. Rowena offered a huge family and community, but she also lived in a rough neighborhood where the pampered Eloise wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable, and she turned a blind eye to her son’s very serious problems, likely enabling him even more.

Eloise was actually portrayed like a little kid. She didn’t spew ‘wise beyond her years’ wisdom and life lessons at every turn. Instead, she was a happy little girl who was genuinely enjoying the attention she got from all sides of her family. It was easy to see why the families each wanted custody of her.

All in all, I think it was very well done. It was hardly perfect, and some of the additions seemed unnecessary. Like the math tutor who’s some kind of super genius…and also lost his entire family when his village was attacked in his home land. I get that they wanted to put in a positive portrayal of a person who lived in poverty, but the tutor was a bit too on the nose. They might as well have given him wings and a halo.

Costner’s depiction of an alcoholic wasn’t particularly good either. That could have used some work. But in general, this was a good movie and might possibly be the first custody battle movie that I actually liked.

WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars


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Movie Review: Captain America – The Winter Soldier (2014)

winter sodier 1Overproduced, Lengthy but Definitely Watchable
3.5 stars
The much anticipated sequel to the first Captain America movie is pleasing critics and killing at the box office. So is the movie living up to its hype? Let’s find out.

The movie starts out after Steve Rogers gets ‘defrosted’ after getting put into a cryogenic sleep following Captain America 1. Not only does Captain America have to fight the bad guys, he also needs to adjust to a new millennium world. It’s action with a bit of ‘fish out of water’ thrown in.

Honestly, I felt this movie was a bit overwhelming. Expect cyber snooping, wiki leaks, bad guys, explosions, Mexican stand offs and more.

You remember back in the 90s, where those overproduced Japanese cartoons used to give kids seizures? I felt a bit like that was going to happen to me. There were too many story lines, too many characters and too many chicks wearing leather.

Which is why I’m sure 14 year old boys will love this movie.

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I will admit, of all the Marvel heroes, Captain America was never really my favorite. I like my graphic novels with a bit more grit. Captain America was always too goody-goody Boyscout for my taste.

But Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), makes up for all of the Captain’s saccharine sweetness by being bad ass and wearing an eye patch. I would watch a movie just about him if given the option.

The movie is well done, if a bit over produced. The storyline flows, though again, is just a bit too involved. None of the plot points feel contrived, which seems to happen on a regular basis in graphic novel adaptations.

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In this case, I think the sequel might actually be better than the original. If the ending is any indication, we are already getting set up for a sequel, so I guess I better learn to like Captain America.

One of my major complaints is that the running time was insane and not fully justified. Two hours and 16 minutes is fine if you’re covering a drama like Schindler’s List. It’s not ok when you’re being subjected to heart pounding action. You will be exhausted at the end of the movie. A lot of completely unnecessary scenes could have been left out. For example, I really didn’t need to watch Rogers jog around to a Marvin Gaye record for 20 minutes to realize that he was overwhelmed by the changes in they world.

If over long, and a bit convoluted, it is still a watchable movie. The effects are better than the first, and have an almost cartoonish air, which fits the film. The style reminded me a bit of a less gritty Sin City. Captain America; The Winter Soldier is another entertaining stab at the franchise and is sure to peak interest in the Avengers sequel coming this summer. If you have 2 hours and 16 minutes on your hands, and you’re not prone to seizures, be sure to check it out.  Watch the official trailer below.

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