Lincoln A Solid Biopic From Start To Finish

Courtesy:  Dreamworks Studios/20th Century Fox

Courtesy: Dreamworks Studios/20th Century Fox

Much has been written of Abraham Lincoln.  Books upon books upon books have been published that center on the man and the myths surrounding his life.  Just as much has been crafted for televised documentaries.  And even more has been penned about the era in which our nation’s sixteenth President led his country.  Now courtesy of author Doris Kearns Goodwin, director Steven Spielberg and screen writer Tony Kushner, audiences have been presented with what is one of the most gripping portrayals of President Lincoln and his time in office in the simply titled, Lincoln.

Lincoln was largely met with applause from critics and audiences alike.  Though there were those that had their qualms with the near three hour long semi-biopic.  Many of the arguments against the story were centered on the fact that the movie in fact focuses on Lincoln and the battles in the halls of the nation’s government.  In the story’s defense, audiences should remind themselves that this movie is not about the war on the battlefield.  It is about the battles in Congress over the abolition of slavery and bringing a final end to the Civil War.  It is a beautifully shot and well acted story.  However, those who have mentioned its sometimes long winded nature can be agreed upon.  Sometimes, it does get rather wordy.  And the story’s slower pacing might turn off some viewers considering that the movie comes in at nearly three hours long.  But those that are true history buffs and/or civil war buffs will easily be able to overlook these issues and enjoy it for its positives, which outweigh the negatives.

For the negatives that weigh down Lincoln, its positives outweigh those negatives.  The first of the positives in Lincoln is that it doesn’t get lost in itself throughout the course of its run time.  The story is meant to focus on President Lincoln and what was the most pivotal moment in his time in office; his waning days in office before his assassination.  The new four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack home release of the movie includes the bonus feature, “The Journey to Lincoln” on both formats.  This feature is a welcome addition as Spielberg, author Doris Kearns Goodwin—whose book was the inspiration behind this movie—and screen writer Tony Kushner all point out in this feature that the aim was meant to be on what went on in Congress during the final days of the Civil War, rather than on the frontlines.  Having this hammered home so gently by all three individuals makes the story more watchable in comparison to the likes of Public Enemies which was also based on a historical non-fiction.  That movie was a mere shadow of the far better book.  It really was a movie that never should have happened.   This movie at least attempts to stay closer to the book on which it is based.  It presents less the mythical Lincoln and more the actual man, and what he faced in what would be his final days in office.

The story and its primary associated bonus feature make up just one of the positives to the new home release of Lincoln.  The acting on the part of the star-studded cast is another positive to Lincoln.  Even though there are some portions of the movie that are more drawn out than they perhaps should have been, veterans Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black 1-3), and Sally Field (Mrs. Doubtfire, Smoky and the Bandit), all contribute expertly, making their parts fully believable.  Making their performances even more believable are costumes that are spot on.  While the movie may not have taken the Oscar for this category, there is no denying how impressive the end result of that work was.  Speaking of which, audiences that pick up the new four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of Lincoln get another bonus in the addition of a feature titled, “Crafting The Past” in the set’s bonus Blu-ray disc.  This feature examines not just the costumes, but also the production work and other more fine details of the movie.

The costumes and production of Lincoln are just as important as any other part of the movie that makes it successful.  There is at least one more factor to the movie that makes this the impressive work that it is.  That factor is the movie’s cinematography.  The shooting style us especially powerful in the movie’s closing scenes as the President surveys the result of a battle.  And the movie’s final scene (which will not be revealed here for the sake of those who have yet to see the movie), is a prime example of expert cinematography.  The transition into that scene and the final pullout are such powerful statements in themselves, and will leave any true history and civil war buff feeling completely satisfied after having made it through the rest of the movie’s emotional journey.  After having made that journey and having viewed the extensive bonus features included in the new four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, those same individuals will agree that Lincoln is in fact one of the best biopics crafted in recent history, albeit only a semi-biopic.  It is available now in stores and online.

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Citizen Gangster Is One of The Year’s Best Indie Releases

Courtesy: IFC Films/MPI Media Group

Citizen Gangster is one of the best indie releases of 2012, hands down.  Some critics obviously have had their say.  But in an era when so many crime dramas are riddled with too much overt violence and sexuality, this piece strikes just enough of a balance to maintain its grip on the audience through the course of its almost two hour run.  One can’t help but feel some sympathy for lead character Edwin Boyd (Scott Speedman) as he faces his own inner trials after deciding to take on a life of crime just to be able to support his family.  The world is in a state of economic uncertainty right now.  And while this movie by no means intends to reiterate that, seeing Boyd’s struggles after returning from WWII makes him at least somewhat relatable. 

Speedman is spot on in the role of Boyd.  Rather than trying to be some sort of over the top type of gangster a la James Cagney, Speedman’s quiet inner battles show him to be a flawed, imperfect character.  It makes him that much more human.  Some would say that he is the only real light of this movie.  But one has to remember that an actor alone can only do so much.  Thanks to the work of writer/director Nathan Morlano, Speedman has given a brilliant performance.  And the story itself is emotionally powerful and gripping.  As disturbing as some moments may be, audiences won’t want to look away.  Nor will they want to look away from the wonderful cinematography, either.  That too adds its own extra element of enjoyment.

As impressive as this indie flick is, it should be noted that it is unrated.  But there is enough violence and foul language to qualify it at least for an “R” rating.  That being noted, viewer discretion is advised for those with younger children.  Speaking of that language and violence, it is nowhere at the level of say Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) or Francis Ford Coppela’s Godfather trilogy.  It has enough of a balance even there, that any fan of the gangster genre will likely find this to be enjoyable, given the opportunity.  It’s even better than 2009′s big screen fiasco, Public Enemies, which paled in comparison to the book on which it was based.

Citizen Gangster likely won’t be seen by the number of people who have seen the Godfather Trilogy, or Goodfellas, or even Public Enemies.  But one thing can be said of it.  It is one of the year’s most underrated–and probably most underappreciated–movies in the crime drama/thriller category.  It is also without a doubt, one of the best in the indie field this year.

Citizen Gangster will be available Tuesday in stores and online.  It can be ordered online at http://www.ifcfilms.com/dvd-digital-download

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