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Movie Review: ‘Only The Brave’ Brings Tension and Tears



Only The Brave

Director Joseph Kosinski takes the heartbreaking tale of the Granite Mountain Hotshots in his late that fought to contain wildfires and gives it the most appropriate of tellings. He never favors heavily on the melodrama, technicalities or patriotism that could ooze from such a story. This could have easily been a soft drama for families and an appropriate tribute to the many firefighters that attended the preview screening. Despite keeping the film on its expected track, Kosinski earns the tears that come with this tragic story.

The film treats the Arizona based Hotshots as men that are devoted and heroic, but still rowdy and flawed. They’re led by Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin), dedicated to making the tough call more than adequately communicating it. He struggles to get his group of hard-working firefighters approved to be Hotshots but has to keep his attitude in check. He has a loving relationship with his ranch-owning wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly), but their relationship turns rocky with extended hours and the debate over having a baby. Only with a little cheerful encouragement and strategy from the former fire chief and family member Duane (Jeff Bridges) can he finally make a difference.

josh brolin only the brave

Josh Brolin as Eric Marsh in Only The Brave

There’s a lot of stories to take in with the many men of this unit, and we only follow a handful. The most prominent is Brendan “Donut” McDonough (Miles Teller), a loser of a pot-smoker that with a pregnant girlfriend that wants nothing to do with him. He’s rough, but Marsh thinks he can mold him. Sure enough, he keeps up with the rowdy bunch and gets his life together enough to be a dad. The rest of the crew just seem like decent and average guys, chatting about ladies and boasting about their band.

It’s the little details that make Only The Brave stand out from the pack of other heroic and tragic tales. I didn’t expect much from Brendan and his baby, suspecting we’d only see him holding his daughter a few times. But there’s a surprisingly sweet sequence where he and another Hotshot struggle with the baby running a fever and they scramble with how to handle it. One of the Hotshots happens to know a nurse and the crisis is averted, with Brendan admitting that was the most frightening moment of his life. Amanda also has her own experience of frustrations, struggling to maintain the ranch on her own and push her new business of shoeless horses to local farmers. She may have to share her man with the fires, but she gets equal enough time in this story to be more than just the worrying wife back home.

The fires these boys combat are as terrifying as they are believable. They approach their strategies with a calm demeanor, committed to digging trenches and cutting off the path of flames, but are aware that one miscalculation could lead to a swift death. There’s a moment when they start spreading flames with a device that spits out embers, only for it to turn into a flamethrower when the mixture gets too hot, forcing Brendan to launch it into the fire. Brendan is slightly panicked about what went wrong, but Eric brushes it off as just being a bad batch. He’s more concerned about promptly leaving the area before the flame spread faster. And when the team tackles the massive Yarnell Hill Fire, the mission turns dark and harsh, all of them striving to be brave amid the most horrific of disasters.

Hotshots: Only The Brave

Hotshots: Only The Brave

While I didn’t feel as though I genuinely grasped the detailed technical aspects of firefighting, I was never out of the loop with these characters. They speak plainly and to the point, rarely taking moments to deliver some overly dramatic line. The film isn’t devoid of these, however. I set my expectations a little low in the first shot where Eric has a dream about a bear made of flames, running through the woods as it growls and leaves a blaze in its wake. This vision is seen at least three more times, and the movie must stop at one moment so Eric can spell out this imagery for the audience. There are also a few scenes in the third act that are a little too on-the-nose with the themes at play. Eric doesn’t want to let Brendan transfer for a safer gig with his family but realizes that it’s Eric’s hangups bringing this distaste.

There’s no significant surprise with how Only The Brave plays out. We watch the tragedy unfold with dignity, the tears flow in the aftermath and are treated to photos of the real Granite Mountain Hotshots to close the film. It’s built to be a tear-jerking tribute but assembled with great care to make a movie of character and courage, so the inevitable event that claims many lives carries a more substantial impact of heroism than the apparent acknowledgments.

Kosinski could have favored more comfortable melodrama and emphasize the wildfires, but he manages to avoid the many pitfalls of adapting such a story. Much like the Hotshots, his film manages to make the quick calls of where to take a tale about family, fire, and frustration. I’ve sat through so many of these real stories of tragedy and heroism meant to evoke tears, most of the audience was quickly won over to weep by the simplest of drama. This film earns its watery-eyed audience and nearly brought me to that emotional pique as well, thanks to Kosinski’s moving portrayal of these people and events. Calling the film moving is a given for those invested in the lives of firefighters, but it carries a more critical impact and grander surprise for those not as involved or aware of these events.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]

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Box Office

“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back



With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Movie News

Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure



Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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Box Office

“Alita” Fights For First, Romance and Horror Behind in Box Office



Valentine’s Day weekend wasn’t exactly the weekend where the romantic comedy took the top spot. But, surprise, the top spots were taken by a sci-fi action picture and an animated comedy about toys. #1 for the weekend was Alita: Battle Angel, the cyberpunk tale based on the manga and directed by Robert Rodriguez, premiering to a debut of $27 million. Though at the top spot, the film cost $170 million so it remains to be seen how well the film will do over the course of the next few weeks when it goes up against other blockbusters.

At #2 in its second weekend is The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, the animated sequel to the 2014 surprise hit, making another $21 million. Though not terrible for its second weekend, the film has only made $62 million so far, way less than the previous film. It, too, remains to be seen if it can weather the storm of new films on the horizon.

We now come to the romantic comedy for the weekend, Isn’t It Romantic, a satire on rom-coms starring Rebel Wilson. Debuting at #3, the film made $14 million, not as strong even when considering that it debuted on the 13th for a box office total of $20 million. The other new film, Happy Death Day 2U, didn’t fare much better with an early debut and a weekend total of $9.8 million. Although it should be noted that Happy Death Day 2U was a somewhat cheap production at $9 million so the film has already made its money back.

Though the box office was pretty low all around, the drops were fairly low, with the thriller Cold Pursuit and the horror The Prodigy taking the biggest drops of 45% and 46%. With the lowest drops, no surprises, were the soft dramas of The Upside and Green Book, both proving to have the legs to carry themselves over months in the box office.

Take a look at the full top 10 box office results for the weekend below:

Alita: Battle Angel ($27,800,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($21,215,000)

Isn’t It Romantic ($14,210,000)

What Men Want ($10,920,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($9,816,000)

Cold Pursuit ($6,000,000)

The Upside ($5,590,000)

Glass ($3,859,000)

The Prodigy ($3,150,065)

Green Book ($2,751,000)

Next weekend is all about the dragons and warriors. How to Train Your Dragon 3, the animated fantasy adventure of the on-going saga, will hit over 4,000 theaters. Fighting with My Family, a comedy about a family of professional fighters, will debut in over 2,500 theaters.

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