Thursday, October 8, 2015

Rapid Reviews: Freeheld and Everest

2015 has been a landmark year for countless civil rights and perhaps nothing was more monumental than the Supreme Court's ruling for gay marriage. Filmmaker Peter Sollett transports us to the grass roots of this movement where last year's Academy Award winner, Julianne Moore, stars as a cancer-stricken woman fighting for her equal rights. And despite the wave of success following the film's leading star, Freeheld reveals itself as a poorly written and unconvincing dramatic effort.

After entering a domestic partnership with her significantly younger partner, Stacie Andree (Ellen page), New Jersey police officer and lesbian, Laurel Hester (Moore), discovers she has cancer in her lungs. And as Laurel's health starts to deteriorate, she begins a tireless battle with local authorities to have her well-earned pension passed along to her partner after she passes away. However, the five county freeholders reject her request and are forced into a bitter social feud with the dying woman.

Freeheld begs for your sympathy but does very little to earn it. Supported by typical scenes and rehashed subplots, there is nothing unique brought to the table by Sollett and his writer, Ron Nyswaner. Instead, we're forced to watch Moore throw herself into a flimsily crafted role that screams, "Oscar bait". While this is far from Moore's most admirable work, co-star Ellen Page delivers well in her supporting role and so does the underrated scene-stealer, Michael Shannon, who gives a hearty turn as a fellow police officer. It's truly a shame because Laurel Hester was a brave woman who fought for her ideals and whose story deserves a better platform than this. Sadly, Freeheld only offers more of the same and never really provides a valid reason worth watching.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C

The latest survival tale to hit theaters, Everest, brings the dangers of mountain-climbing to light. Director Baltasar Kormakur examines the unsettling true story surrounding a group of climbers attempting to conquer Mount Everest who run into a blistering snowstorm during their descent. And while Everest paints itself as a suspenseful must-see movie experience, it's actually a drama-heavy retelling of this harrowing ordeal.

Back in 1996, dangerous expeditions up Mount Everest were commercialized by a select few who were willing to lead these operations. Expensive financially and extremely taxing on the body, clients would do anything to scale the Earth's highest point. However, as Everest shows, nothing can prepare you for the worst.

Backed by a talented cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin and John Hawkes, the film adequately holds your attention as it reveals the ins and outs of preparing for a journey up the mountain. Throughout this lengthy mid-section the characters are examined closely and a formidable bond is formed between them and the audience. Therefore, as the dangers begin to unfold, Everest becomes highly engaging and surprisingly gripping. But despite a strong pacing to the film, no area in particular stands out as exceptional, leaving Everest as an above-average selection that falls short of something special.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

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