Tag Archives: Courtney B. Vance

Uncorked (2020) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

uncorked review

Director: Prentice Penny
Writer: Prentice Penny
Stars: Courtney B. Vance, Lashun Pollard, Michael Mobley

I don’t have a thing for wine. Never had. Even an excellent wine, recommended by connoisseurs, won’t appeal to me. I never liked the taste of it. Why the hell would I watch a movie that focuses on the world of wines? Well, it’s just a coincidence. I discovered “Uncorked” while browsing Netflix and thought I’d give it a shot. And also because I didn’t make the link between the movie title and the whole wine happening. To be honest, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the part about getting a sommelier diploma. The barbecue restaurant storyline, on the other hand, was mouth-watering. And as the film progressed, my hunger pangs intensified. And that didn’t happen since “Chef”.

Well, the film doesn’t only consist of scenes in which wine bottles are uncorked and someone trying to identify this divine beverage while gurgling and spitting it out. This Netflix drama is also about the inner conflict Elijah (Mamoudou “Underwater” Athie) struggles with. This determined young man from Memphis, whose daily routine consists of helping out in the family business and working in the local wine store, has to make an all-important decision in his life. Either disappoint his father. Either himself. His father Louis (Courtney B. “Ben is back” Vance) is convinced his son will take over the family business in the future. Just like Louis did from his father. And Elijah is increasingly realising that the profession of a master sommelier is more dear to him than marinating and barbequing spare ribs.

So “Uncorked” brings the well-known theme about a generation gap. On the one hand, Elijah doesn’t want to abandon his father. On the other hand, he’s still looking for his aim in life. His heart and soul belongs to the sparkling world of wines. A way to mentally travel to other countries (“When I get a wine from someplace like France, someplace like Spain, I just feel like I’m kinda there.”), as a compensation for the lack of this in his youth. The problem is that his father doesn’t believe anymore in the person Elijah and sees it as yet another insane idea that his son has. And he shows that by acting indifferent and disinterested. Needless to say, there is, of course, Sylvia (Niecy Nash), the concerned and supportive mother figure who properly convinces her husband to let Elijah work it out of his system. She’s the missing link between the two poorly communicating vessels, while she herself has to deal with her own health problem.

“Uncorked” is an average movie. A movie that you’d watch while sitting relaxed on your sofa, with or without a glass of wine within reach. A film with a smile and a tear. The humour is not often present but sometimes subtle. For example, the Somalis debacle elicited a brief chuckle. And all this with a soundtrack filled with contemporary hip-hop music that belongs more to the spare ribs house than to the cultured world of wine connoisseurs. It’s a movie you love or dislike, just like with wine. Family values and chasing your dreams are the key topics that I’ll remember from this movie. But I can’t say that the urge for drinking wine got any bigger after watching this Netflix movie.

Ben Is Back (2018) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

Ben is Back Review

Director: Peter Hedges
Writer: Peter Hedges
Stars: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B. Vance

Films about addictions and the destructive effect on family life and personal well-being. I have a hard time dealing with it. “Beautiful Boy” made a crushing impression on me recently. I was thrown off balance after watching it. An emotional fight by a father trying to save his son from a world full of self-destructive chemical junk. An impressive spectacle about hope and second chances. Maybe “Ben is back” is not a similar film on the whole. But nonetheless, I looked at it again in a depressing way and a not so pleasant memory came up again. “Ben is back” certainly isn’t a bad film but doesn’t reach the same level as “Beautiful Boy “. Unfortunately, they decided halfway to turn the social drama into a drug-related thriller. Dealing (pun not intended) with drug addiction was replaced by settings things straight with some drug dealers. In other words, Ben’s world from the past.

Here it’s not a father who serves as a rock in the raging surf. Holly (Julia Roberts) remains Ben’s refuge. She still has hope in the recovery of her son Ben (Lucas Hedges). And then suddenly her son shows up with Christmas. A complete surprise since he normally would stay over in rehab during the holidays. Ben has been there for several months and thanks to his sponsor he seems to be able to leave the addictive stuff behind him. And mother Holly is positive. Nevertheless, all medicines and valuable things are removed quickly. Apparently, confidence has not yet been fully restored.
And also, stepfather Neal (Courtney B. Vance) doesn’t trust him. So, he imposes a veto. Ben is allowed to stay with them for 24 hours, but only if mother Holly keeps a close eye on him for the entire period. A veto that provides the most exciting part of the film. The interaction between mother and son. Endearing and moving at moments. Fairly confronting and painful at other times. Like the scene at the cemetery where Molly points out how destructive his life is. He can even choose a spot as his last resting place. Or the conversation between Molly and the retired doctor who prescribed pain killers to Ben in the past. Two scenes imbued with anger and despair. And all thanks to the addictive stuff Ben was hooked on. Something he wants to get rid of if you listen to his monologue during an NA meeting. In my eyes the most emotional moment.

Naturally, the interpretations of Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges are the ones that get the most attention. And although I’m not such a Julia Roberts fan, I still found her acting impressive and convincing. An emotional roller coaster squeezed into one day. And Roberts plays this tormented but sometimes tough mother in a solid and realistic way. Lucas Hedges also plays his role as the former drug addict in a brilliant way. The moment he bursts into tears during “Silent Night” in the church, will leave no one untouched. But Courtney B. Vance and Kathryn Newton also deserve some praise.

And yet this movie didn’t impress me as much as “Beautiful Boy “. Purely and simply because they’ve not only chosen to create a captivating emotional family drama, but also to make a standard drugs-related thriller of it. The moment the dog disappeared, it immediately reminded me of “Once upon a time in Venice” where gang leader Jason Momoa kidnapped Bruce Willis’s dog. The search of Ben and his mother is a quest full of popular attractions from Ben’s drug history. The key question in the second part is whether Ben is able to resist the temptation. And despite the excessive melodrama at the end, it’s still an exquisite film that conclusively demonstrates how destructive drugs can be. This film should be included in the educational curriculum of secondary schools. Together with “Beautiful Boy” it shows in a realistic way how disastrous your life can be. No drug campaign can match this!

Office Christmas Party (2016) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

Directors: Josh Gordon, Will Speck
Writers: Justin Malen (screenplay), Laura Solon (screenplay)
Stars: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance

Plot:  When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 41%  Audience 41%

Why I watched it: From time to time I break up my routine by watching a comedy, now I’m very picky with comedies, I love to laugh and I think I have a good sense of humour but most comedies leave me cold, now this one I liked the cast so I gave it a try.

Random thoughts: Off the top of your head how many movies have Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston been in together, I count 4, that’s a lot.

What I liked: This is a likeable cast, I will say so many comedies have an abrasive cast or the tone is mean spirited at least Office Christmas Party was pleasant for the most part.  There’s a lot of funny people in this film, maybe too many cause there’s not enough screen time to go around but I have to give them credit almost everyone gets a moment.  Two actors stand out for me Kate McKinnon steals the movie, she’s different her vibe is a bit off but she has amazing timing and she can pull off some weird characters and her she’s a side character but she’s really the only one in the cast to take what is a one-dimensional character and flesh out more. She was a hoot.

Also Courtney B Vance, he’s not known for his comedy but he under plays for the first half then let’s it loose and he has some nice moments. The tone is good, like I said it’s not a mean comedy, there’s a conflict but it’s got a good message about treating your coworkers and employees like family, about caring for them and trying to make Christmas special, nothing wrong with that. Also think that the cast had an easy chemistry with each other and it did feel like these people worked together, Bateman and Munn being the glue to hold the office together and Miller being the well meaning but goofy boss.

What I didn’t like: The Christmas theme is lost here, honestly it could have been just an office party, sure Miller dresses up as Santa but this didn’t feel like a Christmas movie, it’s a comedy but not something anyone would watch every year at Christmas. I like Jason Bateman, I think he’s very under used just go watch The Gift to see his range but man he’s typecast playing the same guy in these comedies, he’s the nice but bland voice of reason and here he doesn’t even get to be funny and his relationship with Munn doesn’t really work cause they have no meaningful screen time together. This is the main problem of the story they throw too much in, too many side characters and sub-plots and they don’t have the time to really flesh everything out.

Aniston is playing the comedy villain cliche and I mean right down the line she’s so a cliche.  I would say they could have cut at least four characters and spread out the time to everyone else to make this a tighter and funnier film. The ending is a head shaker, really they have to rally to save the company and how they do it is just silly and not very believable.  Also one thing I’m realising with the comedies coming out now, we have this loose improve thing going, and you see it when they show the bloopers, just riffing on a scene and you realise that there’s not so much a script but an outline and I think that’s why these comedies come out uneven cause some stuff works and some seems out of place or just doesn’t fit the tone.

Final thoughts: Honestly I didn’t dislike the film, I didn’t love it and I thought it didn’t work completely but I did smile and I laughed a couple of times and there was effort here so it’s not a bad film just not great or even really good but it’s watchable and it did have it’s moments.

Rating: 5/10