Movie reviews: ‘One Love’ and ‘Madame Web’

Lashana Lynch and Kingsley Ben-Adir in Bob Marley: One Love (Courtesy/Paramount Pictures)

Someday a director might make a great movie about groundbreaking reggae artist Bob Marley. Unfortunately for us that movie is not the new film “Bob Marley: One Love.”

The movie isn’t horrible or even necessarily bad. It’s just a weak, almost sanitized telling of aspects of Marley’s story that ultimately rings hollow, particularly when compared to a work like the wide-ranging 2012 documentary “Marley” by Kevin MacDonald.

The film focuses on the period of Marley’s life following the 1976 assassination attempt, the recording of his album “Exodus” in London, and the world tour that followed, which made him an international star and brought reggae music to a much broader audience.

The film, directed by Renaldo Marcus Green from a script by Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, Zach Baylin, and Green, offers glimpses into Marley’s colorful life, but often stops short of digging into the depths of Marley’s art, struggle, and issues.

The film comes off like a half truth or a legend rather than a biography. It almost seems embarrassed or afraid to show the aspects of Marley’s life that could be deemed unsavory.

Again, the depiction of Marley isn’t bad, but it glosses over so much that it doesn’t feel authentic either.

Perhaps the movie’s best scene features Bob (Kingsley Ben-Adir) standing near a ledge overlooking the city below following the assignation attempt. He’s considering whether to go on with his “Smile Jamaica” concert, which is set to be held just before the nation’s elections, or to back out. The only light in the scene beams from the stadium where he is scheduled to perform.

Will he embrace being the light in the darkness, or will he allow the darkness to put out his light?

Ben-Adir’s performance is solid, but the limited scope of the script never truly allows him to delve deeply into the character. It’s all surface-level material.

The movie gives us glimpses at Bob’s younger life in flashbacks, but it never shows us how or why Bob became so highly regarded by his band the Wailers and his fans. His band members refer to him as “Skipper,” but the film fails to give us a concrete reason why.

The best aspect of the movie is the music and the recreations of Marley’s performances. They work and are the most compelling reason to see this movie, but there is plenty of video available from actual Marley performances, if that’s what you’re looking for.

The movie really comes off like reading a lightweight, high-school student’s book report on Marley. It’s just disappointing.

Grade: C-

Madame Web

Celeste O’Connor in Madame Web (Courtesy/Columbia Pictures)

Spider-Man is arguably the most popular superhero character in existence. It’s been that way since the late 1960s.

Sure, Batman is right there with him, and, of course, most everyone knows who Superman is, but he’s too much of a Boy Scout to be cool.

Spidey is The Guy for so many.

The character is so popular that it’s not all that far fetched for Sony Pictures, which has owned the film rights of the character since the late 1990s, decided to build a series of films around Spidey’s supporting characters while its loans out the Wall-crawler to Marvel Studios to make his primary films and its Avengers movies.

As long as the Sony/Marvel collaborations on the character continue to generate billion-dollar box-office sales, expect the agreement to continue.

As for the so-called Sony Spider-verse, it’s been a tougher go. Sure, the “Venom” movies have done well, but last spring’s “Morbius” flopped and Sony’s latest effort “Madame Web” is destined to do the same.

You might ask, who is Madame Web?

Great question. In the comics, she’s a clairvoyant, octogenarian supporting character, who is also a paraplegic. Only hard-core Spidey fans knew about her until word of this film going into production was released.

The character has been reworked for the movie as a 20-something paramedic named Cassandra “Cassie” Webb (Dakota Johnson), who is just discovering her clairvoyant abilities when three young ladies become endangered by Ezekiel Sims (Tahar Rahim), who has Spider-Man-like powers but none of Peter Parker’s morality.

There’s a connection between Cassie and Ezekiel that I’ll not reveal in case you do decide to see this movie.

There’s also a reason why Ezekiel is attempting to murder Julia Cornwall (Sydney Sweeney), Mattie Franklin (Celeste O’Connor) and Anya Corazon (Isabela Merced).

Two other characters Ben Parker (Adam Scott) and his pregnant sister Mary Parker (Emma Roberts) are also in the film. That info will be interesting to those who know their Spider-Man lore, but not much is done with them.

The movie is plagued by first-draft type dialogue, which the cast gamely spouts throughout the movie, but the script does the actors no favors, particularly Rahim, who is a respected French actor.

The performances aren’t the issue. The material they are working with is.

It’s rumored that the movie was originally crafted to include an appearance by Andrew Garfield as the Web-slinger in order to play with the continuity from his “Amazing Spider-Man” films. If that’s true, something caused Sony to back away from that plan, gutting this film of its original intent.

Again, that may be a rumor, but the construction of this movie does feel like plot and scenes are missing and that the final edit was the director and editor’s best effort to deliver a coherent story despite obvious obstacles.

I don’t think they were successful. The movie reminds me of a film that’s been poorly edited for late-night television, just without the commercials.

The next Sony Spider-verse film is “Kraven The Hunter,” starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Russel Crowe. It’s tentatively set for an Aug. 30 release.

Maybe it’ll be better?

Grade: D

New in Local Theaters – Feb. 16, 2024

  • Bob Marley: One Love (PG-13) 1 hr. 47 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square,Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Rogers Towne, Skylight
  • Madame Web (PG-13) 1 hr. 56 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Rogers Towne, Skylight
  • Land of Bad (R) 1 hr. 50 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Pinnacle Hills

Classic Corner – Glory

Matthew Broderick may have gotten top billing in director Edward Zwick’s 1989 Civil War film “Glory,” but it’s Denzel Washington’s movie from the time he appears on screen to when his character Trip is killed in battle after picking up the Union flag while he and his fellow soldiers storm Fort Wagner.

Washington was already known for his work on the popular TV ensemble “St. Elsewhere,” but after his performance in “Glory,” he became a bonafide movie star in the 1990s and remains one today.

The film is the first to tell the story of an African-American regiment that takes an active fighting role in the war fought primarily to end slavery in the United States. Although African-American soldiers were also depicted in the 1965 Civil War film “Shenandoah,” their roles were just an ancillary part of the film.

Broderick played Col. Robert Gould Shaw, the leader of the 54th regiment. While the star of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off ” and “WarGames” is a fine actor, he was woefully miscast in the role and comes off as one of the most ineffective leaders in the history of war films.

Though the film is shot through the point of view of Broderick’s Shaw, the characters played by Washington, Morgan Freeman (Sgt. Maj. Rawlins), Andre Braugher (Cpl. Searles), and Jihmi Kennedy (Pvt. Sharts) are the heart of the movie.

Washington’s performance is strong throughout, as he slowly bonds with his fellow soldiers, but the scene where he is erroneously beaten with a strap for desertion remains one of the most poignant of his career.

Washington deservedly won his first Oscar for the performance in the Best Supporting Actor category, while the movie also collected Academy Awards for Best Cinematography (Freddie Francis) and Best Sound.

James Horner’s haunting score perfectly embellishes Francis’ lush cinematography and the important story Zwick and his cast told.

The film did receive criticism for a number of historical inaccuracies that are ultimately meaningless compared to the to the compelling story and the eyes opened by the movie.

“Glory” is streaming on Tubi and Peacock.