LBJ

lbj

★★★

Imitations of real life figures are captivating. And as the titular character, Woody Harrelson demonstrates a worthy ability to imitate.

The film is a reenactment of crucial events in Lyndon B Johnson’s life at the White House. It begins with him as a firm House Majority Leader of the Senate, followed by his unexpected promotion to Vice President, and finally his task of taking over the Presidency.  Other important characters include Robert F Kennedy (Michael Stahl-David), John F Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan), the progressive Senator Ralph Yarborough (Bill Pullman), and conservative Senator Richard Russell(Richard Jenkins). LBJ is portrayed as a proactive, decisive, and disciplined leader.  But outside of political affairs, a soft side reveals his longing for recognition. There is some emphasis on his need to feel loved by the people.  There are also engaging scenes about John F Kennedy and his brother Robert, the latter of which does not agree with much of LBJ’s principles. Their main issue of contention is the Civil Rights bill and when it should be passed. 

The film, written by Joey Hartstone and directed by Rob Reiner, feels educational at times because its dialogue tends to lecture. It doesn’t always sound natural. But there is still a dramatic effect on the viewer. Much of the scenes are about LBJ’s politics inside the White House but at its core, a story about tough decisions and how best to make them. Apart from that, this is a movie that works even on the base level of an imitation. The performances captivate.

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Flatliners (2017)

flatliners_ver3

★★1/2

Some movies depend on the charisma of its actors and a visual style. If their plot can’t be taken seriously, then it can capture viewers using images. Such was the case with the original Flatliners in 1990.  

This remake is once again about a young medical practitioner who is determined to learn about the afterlife. She decides to experiment on herself with the help of some friends by cooling her body temperature and using a defibrillator to stop the heart. She then experiences death as a sensation of flying outside her body high above hospital grounds where there happens to be a lot of glowing lights.  After a few minutes, she is resuscitated by a friend using the defibrillator, speaks of the experience to them, and  comes to work the next day smarter and feeling invigorated. This inspires her friends to try it and they too experience similar results. But soon after, the side effects begin to haunt them and they are unable to continue normal life.

The story, written by Ben Ripley, continues the interesting topic about the afterlife and making peace with ones past before exiting the world. Each character is revealed to have a troubling history and the actors Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, and Kiersey Clemons are talented in demonstrating the emotions of their parts. But what is lacking is the right screen presence. Think of Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon from the original film – that rebellious but mature look. They fit the type that would try such a daring experiment.  Then there is also the issue of style. This remake , directed by Niels Arden Oplev, chooses to operate like a horror movie that relies on old scares – ghosts that appear and then disappear or strange noises coming from under sheets only to reveal nothing.  If the original film did the same, then at least there was a visual style to it – An atmospheric choice of locations. But I wanted to like Flatliners 2017. And if only the picture looked better.