“Bombshell” Film Review

Explosive! Bombshell is a brilliantly orchestrated and riveting film that takes you behind the scenes at Fox News in the months leading up to the oust of news business mogul Roger Ailes. Follow Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, and (fictionalized) Kayla as they battle the courts of public opinion and the seemingly impenetrable fortress of Fox News to take down the repulsive Roger Ailes. I went into this film prepared for a snark-filled satire, but what I was presented with was a meticulously written and directed docudrama that struck a fantastic balance between feature news story, so to speak, and motion picture. Although the film takes itself appropriately seriously, there are plenty of moments of levity that intertwine to strike the perfect tone. Where films tackling subjects as high profile and personal as this one occasionally fall victim to creating caricatures of real people and settings. Rather than limit the film to dramatizing the legal battle and cold hard facts, it uses the fictionalized character of Kayla to explore the psycho-social cost of being the victim of sexual harassment. So this film is just as much a human story as it is a recreation of an actual event. And it’s that human component that is explored through Kayla, Megyn, and Gretchen that gives this film incredible depth. There is no pretense in this film; it’s a raw, organic approach to adapting this story from the small screen to the big screen. You even get a few surprise cameos from some some familiar anchors and other personalities. Exemplary writing and direction is coupled with a highly effective stylistic cinematography and outstanding performances by the lead and supporting cast.

Bombshell is the dramatization of the downfall of Fox News mogul Roger Ailes that chronicles a group of women as they decide to take on the mastermind of the “fair and balanced” cable news network and the toxic atmosphere he presided over at Fox News.

There have been a few films in recent years that seek to dramatize and tackle the human cost of lecherous sexual harassment and abuse of power in the work place. But this is the first one to strike the perfect balance of PSA and dramatic plot. I love the irony all throughout the film, the stark contrast between “traditional values,” and “fair and balanced” approaches and the repulsive behavior behind the scenes. Yes, Ailes might look like a pioneer for women in that he was the first to truly give women the big anchor chair, but at a scaring and traumatizing cost. He was a sadistic magician of sorts with his “look at what my right hand is doing, meanwhile my left hard is truly pulling the strings.” Much like the news network that he built (and to his credit, he was a broadcast news business genius), the surface was not a reflection of the disgusting practices to craft this “family friendly” illusion. The truly scary portrait that this film paints is not limited to Fox News, but it is likely a reflection of the business of running a “visual medium” by in large. While much of what Ailes did was direct sexual abuse and harassment, he committed a lot of indirect abuse and harassment that leaves just as traumatizing a mark upon the women he abused. Much like Hustlers posited that the entire world is a strip club where a few are dancing while the majority are paying, this film also explores the dark, seedy underbelly of “sex sells” and sex appeal.

The performances are mindblowing! How Charlize Theron completely transformed into Megyn Kelly is nearly as uncanny as Rene Zellweger’s transformation into Judy Garland in Judy. You will swear that you are watching Kelly on the big screen. Theron not only nails the look of Kelly, but the tone of voice, rhythm of speech, and body language. She is truly captivating, and showcases her phenomenal acting chops. Here’s hoping for an Oscar nom for her! Although Megyn Kelly is the central character, she is supported by Gretchen Carlson brilliantly portrayed by Nicole Kidman and fictionalized Kayla, played by Margot Robbie. In the same vein of Theron’s excellent performance, Kidman also nails Carlson down to a science. When I watched Kidman on the Fox and Friends set, I swore that it was Carlson herself. Kidman brings out the strength of character and vulnerability of Carlson. It is clear that Kidman did her homework as well as her character did. Finishing out our trifecta of women at Fox is Kayla, an entry level staff member on various shows at Fox News. She is our conduit through which we experience the extend of Ailes reprehensible behaviors behind the scenes. She represents a young eager professional that can be found in many offices. She is the “everyman,” for all intents and purposes. This role gave her so much to work with, and she was able to demonstrate the wide breadth of her acting abilities. Such a versatile actor! I also appreciate the writing of her character for giving us a normal, every day, woman of faith. One whom isn’t prudish, judgmental, or pious. Her character was likable, sex positive, and NOT homophobic. However, she also highlights how many conservatives view Fox News. And you can feel her heart break as she falls victim to Ailes, that moment she realizes and experiences that the head of Fox News is a disgusting human being.

Not only do the women shine brilliantly in this film, but John Lithgow’s Roger Ailes is fantastic! It’s hard to praise such a disgusting man, but here we have to separate the actor from the character. Lithgow is one of the most charismatic and witty actors ever, and he convinces us that he IS Ailes. I can only imagine the difficulty in portraying such a villainous person. What stands out the most in the performance, aside from the image, is how much he humanized Ailes. Showed him to self-aware of his body image and how he, much like we, rationalize negative behaviors. But it’s this human side that makes Ailed even more frightening. He successfully turns Ailes from TV business diabolical genius to mob boss. Towards the end of the film, we get an appearance by Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch himself. Such a delightful surprise to see McDowell on the big screen again. His Rupert is on point! And in his brief time on screen, he commands it strongly.

The choice of cinematography was very interesting. The movie starts out as if we are at Fox News HQ on a tour of the facility and shows. Our guide is Megyn Kelly! She simultaneously walks us through the facility and provides poignant social commentary on the image and relationships of Fox News to the world. The manner that the camera moves throughout the scenes of the film is in a documentary fashion in the scenes that are real-life recreations of the actual events. When we are in a fictionalized part of the movie, then the camera moves in a more traditional manner for scripted motion pictures. This oscillation between objective and subjective makes for a dynamic experience. Instead of a clip show of headlines and what trended in social media during this time, the film goes deeper to reveal the heart of the issue: ultimate power. Tension and suspense are built effectively as the narrative unfolds in a gripping fashion. From the creative to the technical, everything about this film works flawlessly.

Ryan teaches screenwriting at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! You can catch Ryan most weeks at Studio Movie Grill Tampa, so if you’re in the area, feel free to catch a movie with him!

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“Deadpool 2” movie review

“Deadpool, can you hear me?” Subversive, irreverent, brilliant, meta. It very well may be better than the first. How often do we get to say that about direct sequels? Ryan Reynolds’ witty, crass, charmingly naughty superhero is back to take even the most unrelentingly serious movie patron, and drive them to complete laughter. The square peg of the X-Men’s round universe returns with non-stop action, antics, and fourth-wall breaking humor virtually deconstructing everything from the opening credits to the post-credit scenes. Nothing new there; however, Deadpool assures the audience that the story they are about to see is a family movie. And after watching it, it may be unconventional, but it’s a solid family film. Maybe not “family entertainment,” by the Disney definition, but about family nevertheless. Speaking of which, we may have just watched the final Deadpool as we know it before it gets the Big D sanitization treatment, should Comcast (NBC Universal) not swoop in to save 20th Century from the otherwise inevitable Disney acquisition. Deadpool 2 isn’t just better than the first one simply because it’s funnier, more risqué, or more clever; in measurable ways, it possesses stronger villain(s), stronger opposition to the goal, and a better plot overall. Not your everyday “family” film, but filled with emotional tugs at your heart strings, all the same. Just with a heaping helping of self-aware and self-deprecating bawdy humor.

For two years, Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) has continued his mercenary work, taking down villain after villain, crook after crook; but, after he fails to kill one of his targets on an extra-special day to him, he is faced with tragedy. Through a series of bizarre events–yes, even bizarre for Wilson–Wilson finds himself in a maximum-security prison ran by the DMC (Dept of Mutant Control) along with a renegade 14yo mutant named Russell. When Cable (Josh Brolin), a high-tech assassin, arrives from the future to take out a target that he claims leads to total destruction, Wilson must battle inner and outer demons in order to get his heart into the right place. Knowing he’s facing the most dangerous villain he’s ever encountered, Wilson forms the X-Force, a diverse “superhero” group of many talents in order to apprehend the target to prevent the world from plunging into complete chaos.

There is a comedic power in the plot of Deadpool 2 that invites the audience, at every turn, to laugh with the movie as it laughs at itself. There are a few running schticks throughout the film, but my favorite is the continued references to Barbra Streisand’s groundbreaking film Yentl featuring the iconic Streisand ballad Papa, Can You Hear Me? To which, Deadpool points out sounds an awful lot like Do You Wanna Build a Snowman from Disney’s Frozen. And it’s the implication of Disney appropriating Streisand’s song where the “Disney joke” was likely cut from the movie. Other jokes carry over from the first film such as the X-Men mansion with only Negasonic Teenage Warlord and Colossus roaming around. Some of the schticks from the first movie are transformed for this direct sequel. Contrary to the Wade Wilson from the first film, this one, this one diverts from his persistent aversion to companionship and a desire to be the “lone ranger,” as it were, and expresses a need for family. This desire for family serves as the backdrop of running jokes, gags, and extreme snark.

Streisand isn’t the only female vocal artist highlighted in the film, Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, Pat Benatar’s We Belong, and Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time are all featured, all that we were missing was Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time. Unlike the completely unconventional opening credit sequence from the first Deadpool, this sequel’s opening credit sequence takes a page out of the James Bond handbook, complete with the new single Ashes by Celina Dion. Like the opening credit sequence from the first film, this one also replaces the names with jokes that certainly aid in setting the irreverent mood of the film. Although a film should never primarily rest upon the music, as the plot should stand on its own, the score and featured songs are incredibly important assets that can greatly enhance the experience. Deadpool 2 contains a few montages set to song that will certainly have you rolling over laughing. Sometimes it’s the complete contrast or juxtaposition that the lyrics provide against the action in the foreground that drive the audience to complete hysterical laughter.

For all the first film got right, one of the elements missing from it was a well-developed, dynamic villain (more specifically, opposition to the external goal). Deadpool 2 provides solid central opposition to the external goal (which, for spoiler sake, I won’t mention) flanked by two villains taken directly out of the X-Men comics (and X-Men: the Animated Series). Cable, mentioned earlier, and the Juggernaut. Not to pigeonhole Cable into the villain category, there is more to this villain than first meets the eye. He can be more accurately described as an anti-hero because of his reasons for returning to the past to stop Armageddon, so to speak. Knowing Cable’s backstory, his goals, and that which he sees as opposition to his goals, gives him a character depth seldom seen in many superhero villains. When a villain (or anti-hero) can get the audience to empathize with his or her plight, then the villain succeeds in being well-developed and complicated. Having a complicated villain enables the audience to love or love to hate the villain. But in both cases, the audience loves to see the villain (or anti-hero) on screen. Supplementing the cast of villains in Deadpool 2, is the iconic X-Men character Juggernaut. His introduction into the film comes at a strategic turning point that launches the plot into the showdown.

The film makes an important observation about the lack of plus-sized lead characters in superhero movies. Russell is a plus-sized mutant who wants so desperately to be a superhero, but sends the message to Wilson (and by extension, the audience) that there should be room for non-athletic types in the superhero universe. It’s an important message that I think would have played out more effectively had the actor not been so childish. I understand that the character is a 14yo mutant who is still struggling to find his place in this world and understand his powers, but I kept seeing the actor and not the character. The ability to bring a character to life without the actor showing is part of the art of acting. In most cases, the audience wants to see the character, not the actor playing him or her. I liked the character of Russell, just think he could have been portrayed by another actor who could have more effectively driven the message home that diversity in the superhero universe mans more than male, female, straight, gay, etc. It should also incorporate a diversity of body types. Having non-athletic body types represented in lead characters–superheroes specifically–is an element that I hope continues to improve.

There truly is so much to enjoy about Deadpool 2. Behind the ballsy jokes, suggestive poses, and hilarious meta observations, is solid writing and direction. With the Disney acquisition of 20th Century Fox all but complete, with the wild card of Comcast’s (NBC Universal) bidding 19% more than Disney in cash that could alter the direction of the deal, I hope that we did not witness the last Deadpool free of Disney sanitization. Knowing that they strong-armed Fox into cutting a Disney joke from the film during post-production, does not help matters any. Hopefully, the third installment of Deadpool will be just as funny, if not funnier than the first two. Oh yeah, it should go without saying but this NOT a superhero movie for kids.