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Movie Review: Denzel Washington’s ‘Fences’ Delivers Oscar Worthy Performances

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Denzel Washington directs and stars in the theatrical adaptation of FencesAugust Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play. As with any adaptation, the question must be asked: Is there anything here to separate it from its previous medium? Yes and no. Fences is loyal to the style of the play in that characters carry long passages of dialogue and mostly occupy a single set for the entire movie. But if a movie is going to feel like a play, it may as well be a superbly well-cast play. And you can’t do much better than Oscar contenders Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. 

fences-after-workWashington perfectly plays the Fences’ working class Troy, a father of the 1950s that makes just enough money to support his family in their modest Pittsburg home, but content enough to enjoy his life. He skips home from his job of a garbage collector with his pay in an envelope, a smile on his face and a burning desire to jump in bed with his wife.

It’s impossible to take your eyes off such a character the way he casually spins yarns, jokes with honesty and take a serious tone to more crucial issues. He could carry on a conversation for hours on everything from baseball to money to death itself. Most of those listening to his stories can do little more than smirk and shake their heads as he carries on with his musings and rants.

The only one who can put a halt with logic to Troy’s talking is his wife Rose, played by Viola Davis with the right amount of power, sincerity and desperation. She’s smart enough to know when Troy is weaving tall tales to impress his friends, but sweet enough to appreciate his enthusiasm.

Whereas Washington is a constant force of words, Davis chooses her’s wisely and doles out a heaping helping of force when provoked. Even when pushed with her back to the wall and offered an easy out to sever the life she wants to escape from, she faces it with a calm fury all her own that makes her both a powerful woman and a caring mother.

Washington’s direction maintains a faithfulness to the play by keeping nearly the entire picture encapsulated around the Maxson home. Troy ambles into the backyard after work to chat up a storm among beers, later moving the conversation into his living room before supper is served in the dining room. These settings could become tiresome in their repetition, but the passage of time and significance of the house makes the setting almost another character.

A tetherball hangs in the backyard, a constant reminder to Troy of his past days as a baseball player and the future of death awaiting him. Fences never veers off course from the direction of a play as it wants to feature its leads front and center. There isn’t much to be distracted by, leaving Washington’s ramblings and Davis’ tearful rage holding the eyes indefinitely.


fences-football-scene

There are plenty of heavy themes to tackle in these two hours, but Washington handles each one scene by scene and with great care. Troy is able to transition from playfully explaining to his son why they can’t buy a television to bitterly refusing his son’s favoring of football practice over a part-time job.

Troy’s reveal of an affair could have made for a bad soap opera moment, but it’s presented beautifully as a moment of ugly realization and seething regret. And the manner in which these characters come to terms with their past demons as the afterlife seems to loom over their backyard is a nice touch. Only Washington could take a scene where Troy shouts at death to stay away from his house and make it both sad and intense.

There is a moral questioning throughout of Troy’s character as he sinks lower and lower into his hole of bad decisions. He’s already haunted as he feels guilty for taking advantage of his brain-damaged war buddy for the house he was able to afford. He constantly talks with a self-important attitude, almost as if he’s worried that if he stops speaking death will come for him.

Life has passed him by so much that he finds himself drowning in baseball analogies and desperately seeking something more out of life. Even after all the horrible things he has done to his family, Rose still sticks it out as the better woman that won’t be pushed aside. It’s difficult drama, but still meaningful and profound for approaching such subjects in an era when they were more than a little taboo.

Fences is an outstanding script adaptation of the play, but elevated to a much higher level thanks to the astounding talents of Washington and Davis. They’re almost too good for this movie as they take solid roles for a play and knock them out of the park. There’s a somber honesty to this picture that paints real characters into its suburban setting and forces the audience to not only become absorbed in their world, but peer inside their pasts and philosophies. Simple folk are not so simple, at least when they’re being played by such top-talent actors.

Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Robert DeNiro de-agedHave you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. ????

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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

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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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