Tag Archives: josh gad

“Marshall” is just fine which is just a little sad

The story of Thurgood Marshall is an inspirational American tale. The descendant of slaves, Marshall graduated from Howard University law school, argued before the Supreme Court (winning the landmark Brown v. Board of Education) and was appointed to the US Supreme Court. With all of that history, it’s surprising that the filmmakers of Marshall have chosen to focus on none of that.

Written by Michael and Jacob Koskoff and directed by Reginald Hudlin, the film tells the story of Thurgood (Chadwick Boseman) in 1940 when he works for the NAACP. A white woman, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson), has accused a black man, Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), of rape in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Insurance lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) is picked to represent the defense by a racist judge, leading Thurgood to act as his silent co-counsel. The case proves complex however and both Sam and Thurgood must grapple with outside repercussions that threaten their commitment.

The most interesting aspect of the film is its reversal of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Much like the classic Harper Lee story, the film frames the same type of story around the same themes and instead gives us an uplifting ending, presenting us with an alternative portrait of justice. As well, there’s a bit of “In the Heat of the Night” to accentuate racial tensions.

The film is fine. It hits all of its beats, the acting is good and the story arcs work. It’s just so strange that a movie about Thurgood Marshall features so little Thurgood Marshall moments. No Brown v. Board of Education, no Supreme Court seat. He’s not even the main character of the story. That is Sam with Thurgood serving as his mentor. These strange choices hinder the film somewhat and while it’s appreciated that Marshall isn’t sentimentalized by Hollywood, recognizing the man for his greatest accomplishments would be a tribute to him.

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“Murder on the Orient Express” is fine but lacks gravitas

Directed and starring Kenneth Branagh, “Murder on the Orient Express” tells the story of Hercule Poirot (Branagh) in one of his most famous cases. When Mr. Ratchet (Johnny Depp) is murdered in the dead of night aboard the Orient Express, everyone in the coach is a suspect. Could it be Miss Debenham (Daisy Ridley)? Or Dr. Arbutnot (Leslie Odom Jr.)? Or perhaps the butler, Edward Masterman (Derek Jacobi)?

The film is a fun, if ultimately forgettable, jaunt into an old time mystery. The movie plays it up hokey at times and it could have done so even more. Keeping things light and campy would have really accentuated the classic sense of the film and harken back to an oldtime era. As it is, the reason behind the movie is more of a mystery. It tries to incorporate modern technique into an old story but comes across as too beholden to the past. Perhaps it is just a vanity project as it is directed, starred in and produced by Branagh.

The cinematography is great and the acting is solid. It’s an enjoyable ride that just glides along the surface. The original 1973 version seems so much more memorable though. It really took time to delve into the characters and the story and focused on the mystery as the driving plot. This film is adequate but lacks muster.