Brian Banks


There is absolutely nothing like a mother’s love.

(2018) Sports Biography (Bleecker StreetAldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepherd, Morgan Freeman, Melanie Libaud, Dorian Missick, Tiffany Dupont, Matt Battaglia, Xosia Roquemore, Gina Vento, Mytie Smith, Rick Vyper, Edward Parker, Charles Alexandre, Dean Denton, Mary Faulkner, Jennifer Pierce Mathus, Kevin Yamada, Harrison Stone, Monique Grant, Elizabeth Donaldson. Directed by Tom Shadyac

 

There is little doubt that the American legal system is seriously broken. Justice seems to be the sole province of the wealthy and the white. Standards of proof seem to fluctuate depending on the color of one’s skin and the gender of the accuser.

Brian Banks (Hodge) is a 16-year-old kid with an incredible future before him. A star linebacker at Long Beach Poly high school, one of the premier high school football programs in the entire country, he has already been accepted to the University of Southern California and seems guaranteed to be on the fast track to NFL stardom.

That rosy future is interrupted by an accusation of kidnapping and rape by a fellow Poly student (Roquemore). Banks is arrested and indicted, then his ineffective lawyer convinces him to accept a plea agreement that turns out to be a raw deal for Banks, sending him to prison for five years which would be followed by probation for an additional five years – plus being labeled a sex offender for the rest of his life. Sounds pretty much like justice except for one thing; the rape never happened.

Banks struggles to prove his innocence, reaching out to Justin Barber (Kinnear), founder of the California Innocence Project who gently informs Banks that because he entered a no contest plea, the only way to get his conviction reversed is literally for his victim to recant her testimony.

Amazingly, Banks perseveres even though he is as much a prisoner on the outside as he was in prison. Nobody will hire a convicted sex offender and Banks isn’t allowed within a certain distance of public parks and schools. Every time it seems like Banks finds a ray of hope, some tough-on-crime politician rams through legislation that slams the door shut.

This is meant to be an uplifting, inspirational film about the power of perseverance and believing in one’s self and one’s dreams. Hodge delivers a star-making performance that carries the picture, holding his own nicely against stellar actors like Kinnear and Freeman (who plays a prison teacher whose platitudes help Banks find inner peace). While the true story is compelling enough, it is Hodge that most people will remember best after seeing this film.

Definitely the movie makes some commentary on the gulf in the justice system that exists between black and white. Had Banks been a white athlete, it’s likely that the accuser would not have been believed and even if the case went to trial, the perpetrator would have gotten a slap on the wrist if he did any time at all. Boys will be boys, but African-American boys will be criminals – at least that’s how our legal system apparently sees things.

In the #MeToo era there is a bit of tone deafness about this project. False rape accusations are relatively rare and more often than not, accusers are treated with disbelief and scorn, often being blamed for their own assault. Even though this is a true story, it’s not a typical one and the movie really doesn’t address that.

Still, Banks is an inspirational person and watching Hodge absolutely nail his performance is a treat. That the plot gets a bit maudlin especially in the last half of the film doesn’t help matters. The real Brian Banks couldn’t have asked for a better performance to capture his life; he certainly could have asked for a better movie to frame it.

REASONS TO SEE: Hodge delivers the performance of his career.
REASONS TO AVOID: The script gets a bit soapy in places.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s a certain amount of profanity, as well as some adult thematic content and accompanying images.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: At least eight of Banks’ teammates on the Long Beach Poly team eventually played professional football either for the NFL or overseas.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/28/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 58% positive reviews: Metacritic: 58/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: A Time to Kill
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
Seaside

New Releases for the Week of August 9, 2019


THE KITCHEN

(New Line) Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson, James Badge dale, Brian d’Arcy James, Common, Margo Martindale. Directed by Andrea Berloff

In Hell’s Kitchen in 1978, the wives of three low-level hoods in the Irish Mafia find themselves in dire financial straits when their husbands are sent to jail. Despite assurances by the mob that they’ll be taken care of, it turns out that it’s all just lip service. Desperate, the ladies take matters into their own hands and start running their husband’s rackets on their own.

See the trailer, video featurettes, a clip and an interview here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Crime Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for violence, language throughout and some sexual content)

The Art of Racing in the Rain

(20th Century Fox) Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Baker, Kevin Costner (voice). A puppy, picked up by an aspiring Formula One race car driver, grows philosophical, realizing that the techniques that make one successful on the race course also apply to success in life.

See the trailer and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Family
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for thematic material)

Brian Banks

(Bleecker Street) Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepherd, Melanie Liburd. A young high school All-American football player is ready to take that first step towards turning pro when he enrolls at the University of Southern California but finds his plans derailed when he is accused, tried and convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. After years of trying to prove his innocence, he at last is successful and is determined to fulfill his interrupted dream of playing in the NFL.

See the trailer, video featurettes and clips here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Sports Biography
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic content and related images, and for language)

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

(Paramount) Isabella Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Pena, Eva Longoria. The beloved Nickelodeon animated show Dora the Explorer gets a live action treatment as high schooler Dora along with her faithful monkey companion and some of her pals from school go on a wild adventure in the jungles of South America to save her parents and solve the mystery behind a legendary city of gold.

See the trailer, video featurettes and a clip here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Family Adventure
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for action and some impolite humor)

ECCO

(Citadel) Lathrop Walker, Tabitha Bastien, Helena Grace Donald, Michael Winters. A former assassin, living quietly with his family away from his former life, finds his cover blown by his former employers. Now he must rely on his skills to protect his loved ones and hunt down those who betrayed him and in whom all his sins reside.

See the trailer, interviews and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Suspense
Now Playing: Old Mill Playhouse, Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for violence including bloody images, language, and some sexuality/nudity)

Rapid Eye Movement

(Vertical) Reiko Aylesworth, Francois Arnaud, Danny Ramirez, Rebecca Watson. A radio DJ, attempting to break the world record for staying awake, is beset by a troubled caller warning him to raise $5 million for charity or face disturbing consequences.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Suspense
Now Playing: Touchstar Southchase
Rating: NR

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

(CBS/Lionsgate) Zoe Margaret Colletti, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Michael Garza. A group of teens find a book of terrifying tales written by a young girl named Sarah whose terrible images turn out to be all too real.

See the trailer, video featurettes, a clip and a promo here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Family Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for terror/violence, disturbing images, thematic elements, language including racial epithets, and brief sexual references)

Them That Follow

(1091) Olivia Colman, Kathryn Dever, Walton Goggins, Jim Gaffigan. In this 2019 Florida Film Festival favorite, a young girl raised in a church that practices serpent handling, the pastor prepares for his daughter’s wedding, which unwittingly unleashes a secret that may change the girl’s perception of her father forever.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Barnstorm Theater, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG (for ] language, thematic elements, some suggestive content and brief smoking images)
 

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Bring the Soul: The Musical
Hello, Love, Goodbye
Light of My Life
Manmadhudu 2
Nerkonda Paarvai
Parey Hut Love

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

The Best Summer of My Life
The Bravest
Bring the Soul: The Musical
David Crosby: Remember My Name
Jabariya Jodi
Manmadhudu 2
Nekrotronic
Nerkonda Paarvai
The Quiet One

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

The Bravest
Hamlet Pheroun
Hello, Love, Goodbye
Jabariya Jodi
Kobbari Matta
Nerkonda Paarvai

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Manmadhudu 2
Nerkonda Paarvai

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Brian Banks
The Kitchen
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Them That Follow

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Popcorn Frights Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale

Pick of the Litter – August 2019


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw

(Universal) Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby. The first spin off movie from the Fast and Furious franchise gives us Agent Luke Hobbs and former outlaw Deckard Shaw forced to work together to save the world (and Shaw’s sister) from a genetically enhanced madman who is intent on releasing a biological weapon that will decimate the world’s population – and that Shaw’s sister stole from him. August 2

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Love, Antosha

(mTuckman) Anton Yelchin, Chris Pine, Jodie Foster, Nicolas Cage. The heartbreaking and yet still inspiring story of the late actor Anton Yelchin whose death in a freak accident at age 27 robbed the world of a consummate artist whose best work was ahead of him. August 2

Ladyworld

(Cleopatra) Ariela Barer, Annalise Basso, Ryan Simpkins, Odessa Adlon, Eight girls are trapped in a house during a birthday party by a massive earthquake that may or may not have happened. As the never-ending party continues, the girls begin to face the music in that food and water is becoming short and a kind of Lord of the Flies mentality begins to kick in. The film is touted as a new look at feminine stereotypes by visionary director Amanda Kramer. August 2

Luce

(Neon) Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Tim Roth. A married couple couldn’t be prouder of their son, adopted from a war-torn African nation. He has risen above his past to become a model student, a fine athlete and someone much admired in the community. When a devoted teacher suddenly rings alarm bells after he writes a paper advocating violence, the parents are forced to reconsider their image of their son. August 2

Brian Banks

(Bleecker Street) Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepherd, Melanie Liburd. The incredible but true story of a 16-year-old high school football player, considered a can’t-miss prospect for the NFL, who is incarcerated for 11 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He struggles to prove his innocence and get a chance to get the life he should have had back. August 9

The Banana Splits Movie

(SyFy) Dani Kind, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Romeo Carere, Steve Lund. What better birthday present could there be for a young boy in the 1970s than tickets to a taping of the beloved children’s show, The Banana Splits? However, things take a much darker turn in this much-anticipated horror comedy. What hath Sid and Marty Kroft wrought? August 13

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of Turtles

(GKIDS) Starring the voices of Jorge Usón, Fernando Ramos, Luis Enrique de Tomás, Cyril Corral. Budding filmmaker and staunch surrealist Luis Buñuel is certain that he will never make an impact on his art or the world until a friend with a winning lottery ticket allows him to make a documentary that will forever change the way he sees the world. This is based on a true story and features actual footage from the original documentary woven in with the animation. August 16

Mission Mangal

(FIP) Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha. The incredible true story of the scientists and engineers of the Indian Space Research Organization who in overcoming personal adversity and a history of failures were able to successfully launch India’s first probe to Mars – the least expensive mission to ever go there  August 15

The Amazing Jonathan Documentary

(Hulu) The Amazing Jonathan, Weird Al Yankovic, Anastasia Synn, Benjamin Berman. Popular comedian and magician The Amazing Jonathan found his life derailed when he was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition that gave him a year to live. First-time documentary filmmaker Berman initially was set to document the last year of his life – only to discover that reality and illusion were beginning to blur. August 16

Aquarela

(Sony Classics) Viktor Kossakovsky. A globe-hopping, mesmerizing documentary examines the effects of water on our world and the effects of climate change on all things aquatic. Using stunning visuals to immerse the viewer in a world of water, ice and steam, the movie will also be released in high frame-rate versions in selected cities. August 16

Brittany Runs a Marathon

(Amazon) Jillian Bell, Jennifer Dundas, Patch Darragh, Lil Rel Howley. A New Yorker, tired of being ignored and overweight, decides to take charge of her life in this life-affirming comedy. She decides that her goal is to run the New York City Marathon and while some scoff, she will not be deterred. August 23

Freaks

(Well Go USA) Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Lexy Kolker, Amanda Crew. An overprotective dad keeps his young daughter confined to the house. As she grows up, she begins to suspect her dad may be paranoid and delusional, and she is eager to solve the mystery of her mom who disappeared when she was very young. It turns out that her dad had reason to be overprotective. August 23

Official Secrets

(IFC) Kiera Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode. This is based on the true story of British whistleblower Katherine Gun, who was tried for violations of the Official Secrets Act for leaking information to the press about an illegal NSA operation that was designed to convince the UN Security Council to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq despite there being no real evidence to justify it. August 23

Vita & Virginia

(IFC) Gemma Arterton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isabella Rossellini, Rupert Penry-Jones. This is based on the actual love letters of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West; whose forbidden romance inspired the novel Orlando. August 30