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

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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=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.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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Review: Pleasing Heists and Nagging Winks in “Solo: A Star Wars Story”

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Solo is a prequel that teeters between pointless backstory and rousing world exploration. By its very conception, it is an unneeded movie, tracing origins I didn’t need to see of Han Solo acquiring his blaster, ship, and Wookie. But when the story can pull itself away from its tiring foreshadowing of the Star Wars trilogy, the film nears its more engaging aspect of the swashbuckling nature a Han Solo movie should be.

Alden Ehrenreich plays the young Han Solo with a certain swagger that doesn’t seem quite there yet. In many ways, this works for the benefit of an origin story by not starting off the outlaw as such. His story begins as that of a slave who escapes a nasty overlord, smuggling his way off a manufacturing planet with his thieving and piloting skills. But he needs to go back for his love Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), giving him more of a purpose besides scoring the biggest take. This aspect sends Han down many paths, from working for the Empire in the battlefields, to snatching loot from gravity-shifting train cars, to staging a rebellion on a mining planet.

Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. (Courtesy Walt Disney Pictures)

As with any prequel, there’s a problem with care for the characters when we know more or less what will happen to them. We know the dashing romance between Han and Q’ira won’t go anywhere and that Han’s new acquaintance of the gambler Lando (Donald Glover) will make it out of this film alive. Han’s questionable ally of Becket (Woody Harrelson) and his bitter crime boss Vos (Paul Bettany) probably don’t have a chance of surviving this ordeal. While I’d like to set the original Star Wars trilogy aside to enjoy Han’s heist film, I can’t help bringing it up when there are so many knowing nudges and winks to forming the character. As if we really needed to see where Han first picked up his iconic blastr or hear a variation on the line “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

When the film does decide to put down the callbacks, however, it does start to become the fast and adventurous caper that can exist on its own. There’s real zip to scenes of high-speed chases through snowy mountains and dangerous maelstroms. There’s a multitude of romances and twists that always keeps the blood pumping, even if it feels more like gas churning through an engine, seeming more exciting by design than delivery. And per the Star Wars design is lots of color in the settings with creative alien designs. It just wouldn’t be a gangster bar in the Star Wars universe if there wasn’t a singer in strange attire singing next to a crooning blob in a jar.

The cast is sufficient enough, particularly Donald Glover embodying a smirking scoundrel and Paul Bettany as a sinister force, even if his facial makeup makes him look as though a cat scratched him. Alden Ehrenreich does a decent job at trying to match the cocky nature and boastful posture of a Han Solo in the making, but there’s not much time for him to fit into the role. The film is in such a rush to zoom towards a robot rebellion or a fighting an octopus near a black hole that the charisma never simmers enough to the point where Ehrenreich makes the character his own. The most unique character, despite being overtly bold in its message, is the droid of L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), a supposed female droid that is more infatuated with droid rights than piloting for Lando. She has a romantic attraction to Lando which opens up a whole new can of worms for the Star Wars universe.

Donald Glover is Lando Calrissian in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. (Courtesy Walt Disney Pictures)

Much like the Millenium Falcon, which appears in the film as a less dirty spaceship before Han got his hands on the controls, this is a film that stops and starts, making me want to kick the projector every few minutes. When slowing down for its underwhelming conversations of how Han met Chewy, the film stalls in easy and unnecessary nostalgia. Just before it grows tedious with references, the action kicks back in and there’s a glee to Han’s adventure of thieving, blasting, and deceiving. And I really wished the film kept up its own pep of being its own thing so the fate of Solo doesn’t loom over the picture with a depressing realization that it’s not going to end well for him. It’s such a rusty movie that struggles to be fun and daring you can almost hear director Ron Howard muttering that old Han Solo line “Here me baby, hold together.” Solo does hold together, but crashes towards the finish line in such a broken and battered state you wonder how it even took off.


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Deadpool Dethrones Avengers With Triple-Digit Debut

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The first film to knock down Marvel Studio’s towering juggernaut of Avengers: Infinity War from the #1 slot has arrived. It’s no surprise that it would indeed be another superhero movie, but it is surprising by how much it overtook. Deadpool 2, Fox’s Marvel property of a fourth-wall breaking anti-hero that satirizes comic book movies, premiered to a huge first weekend of $125 million domestic. Despite being just a few million dollars short of its previous film, it’s still an impressive achievement for an R-rated Marvel movie that keeps the momentum going both in comedy and box office. Even more impressive is it’s worldwide gross that is currently sitting at a beefy $301 million. Expect it to stick around for such a successful first weekend.

With such a high take from Deadpool, Avengers: Infinity War naturally took a big hit. Dropping by 53%, the blockbuster made only $28.6 million in fourth weekend. It’s still standing tall with a domestic total of $595 million, but it’s doubtful at this point that it’ll reach the same heights as Marvel’s earlier 2018 blockbuster of Black Panther. Other debuts this week were not so lucky with such limited takes. The all-female comedy Book Club premiered at #3 for the weekend with a $12.5 million domestic gross. The family comedy Show Dogs placed at #6 with $6 million in its domestic take.

Returning films are weathering the Marvel storm decently with expected drops. A Quiet Place is still hanging in there with the lowest drop of the weekend, bringing in another $4 million to boost its domestic total up to $176 million, still an amazing gross for the $17 million horror movie that could. The giant monster movie Rampage is clinging to the top 10 in its #9 slot, but it’s not looking good for such expensive blockbuster still so far away from meeting its budget. And RBG, the documentary on Ruth Bader Ginsberg, remains in the #10 spot from last weekend with its domestic total now up to $3.8 million.

View the full top 10 for the weekend below.

Deadpool 2 ($125,000,000)
Avengers: Infinity War ($28,672,000)
Book Club ($12,500,000)
Life of the Party ($7,725,000)
Breaking In ($6,470,000)
Show Dogs ($6,034,770)
Overboard ($4,725,000)
A Quiet Place ($4,040,000)
Rampage ($1,500,000)
RBG ($1,280,000)

Next weekend will pit Deadpool against another anti-hero in Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, the Star Wars side story on Han Solo. It will indeed be interesting to see how a Star Wars movie plays in the summer as the previous three Disney Star Wars productions have all been massive blockbusters in December. For debuting in 4,200 theaters, the pressure is on to see Star Wars topple Marvel.


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Another Astounding Weekend at the Box Office for Avengers: Infinity War

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Box Office Weekend 5/4/18-5/6/18

Not the least bit surprising, Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War has dominated the weekend box office with another massive gross. In its second weekend, the grandest superhero ensemble to date brought in $112.4 million. This brings its domestic total up to $450 million, and its worldwide take well over $1 billion. Time will tell if it has the legs, however, to hold its own against Marvel’s other superhero epic this year, Black Panther. Considering Black Panther is still in the top 10, and has almost passed $700 million domestic, it’ll be a close race between the two Marvel movies.

Of course, the success of the Avengers is due in no small part to this being a rather sparse weekend of premieres appearing in fewer theaters. Braving the Marvel storm to come in at #2 was the romantic comedy remake, Overboard, starring Eugenio Derbez and Anna Faris, making $14.7 million domestic. And if that’s the gross of the #2 spot, you can imagine how lower the other films are. Tully, a new comedy Jason Reitman and starring Charlize Theron, came in at #6 with a domestic gross of $3.1 million. Further down at #10 is the new David Tennant starring thriller, Bad Samaritan, making $1.7 million for the weekend.

There were expected dips all around with no huge surprises, but many of the successful films that have hung around are growing a considerable gross. John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place had the lowest drop and is currently sitting at a robust $159 million domestic total. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther has already blazed many records, but it’s only $7 million away from clearing $700 million domestic.

See the full top 10 box office results below.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War ($112,474,000)
  2. Overboard ($14,750,000)
  3. A Quiet Place ($7,600,000)
  4. I Feel Pretty ($4,900,000)
  5. Rampage ($4,620,000)
  6. Tully ($3,186,000)
  7. Black Panther ($3,146,000)
  8. Truth or Dare ($1,885,000)
  9. Super Troopers 2 ($1,815,000)
  10. Bad Samaritan ($1,758,000)

Next weekend, Avengers will be battling against the Melissa McCarthy starring comedy Life of the Party and the Gabrielle Union starring thriller Breaking In. Considering that Life of the Party will have the most significant theater count, McCarthy has the only real shot at being the first film to knock the superhero giant down from the top 10, though it’s doubtful of the Avengers hype will have died down by then.


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