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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Category Archives: 6-6.5/10

Roll Bounce (2005)

Is this what the kids nowadays call “blading”……yo?

After the death of his mom, Xavier (Bow Wow) has been having a bit of a rough go. His dad has hit a serious case of depression, his little sister needs someone to look up to, and yeah, he basically just doesn’t know where he wants to go, nor what he actually wants to do with his life. The only thing in his life that he is certain about is roller-skating, but even that’s hit a bit of a rough patch now with his local skate palace being torn down. Now, without one near by, Xavier and his buddies have to travel all the way uptown, where the people are richer, more priveleged, and oh yeah, whiter. Obviously, Xavier and his buddies stick out like sore-thumbs amongst this very rich and preppy crowd, but they make it all work by just being themselves, skating their assess off, and having a good time through it all. But with local skate legend Sweetness (Wesley Jonathan) back in town and looking to maintain his territory, Xavier and his boys are going to have to step up their games.

Both on and off the rink.

Lean with it….

Roll Bounce is pretty conventional and formulaic, but it’s also the kind of movie that gets by solely on the fact that it’s so sweet, so earnest, and so easygoing, that it’s easy to just forget about all of its issues and enjoy the time you have with it. Granted, there are plenty of problems and, if you’re looking very, very close, you can probably see more bad then good, but for me, Roll Bounce feels like the right kind of soft-hearted nostalgia that means well, isn’t trying to change the world, and just have some fun. In other words, it’s what every movie, ever made, should aspire to be.

But once again, there are those problems that keep Roll Bounce away from achieving some actual greatness. For one, its plot is a little flimsy and at times, doesn’t seem to really be making much sense of itself. While it’s not all that hard to do a coming-of-age tale, it’s also a lot harder to sort of screw it up, where your messages about growing up, becoming an adult, and figuring out just who, or what, you are, don’t fully come together. Xavier, on paper, is our traditional protagonist for a story such as this, and while it’s not hard to sympathize for a character who has already endured so much hardship, it’s not hard to sort of not care about any of it all.

Of course, that isn’t to discredit Bow Wow, or anybody else in this cast – the problem is purely a script issue.

….rock with it!

Director Malcolm D. Lee and screenwriter Norman Vance know how to set the mood and the tone for a movie taking place in the dog days of summer, where everything is catching up on itself, memories are being made, and yeah, people are getting a little tired of the damn heat, but when it comes to making a real compelling story out of it all, they sort of drop the ball. It’s just too melodramatic and cheesy at times to fully work; while it may appear to be a sort of sports movie, it is, in actuality, a family-drama that never gets all that interesting. Chi McBride is good as Xavier’s dad who has some real problems of his own, and had he been given his own movie, it probably would have worked, but put up against Xavier, his wacky and wild buddies, and whatever the hell they’re doing at the skating-rink, yeah, it feels odd.

That said, the tone here is quite infectious and it’s hard to really get past that. It’s close to two hours and yeah, it definitely doesn’t need to be; some characters get development and certain shadings that, quite frankly, don’t really matter, or even go anywhere. But the skating stuff, in and of itself, is what saves the movie, because whenever it seems like the story’s getting too far gone in its own head, thankfully, the bright colors, the loud music, the huge afro’s, and the constant rolling, take over and make things better.

If only for a small bit.

Consensus: Clearly an earnest and sweet piece of nostalgia, Roll Bounce gets by solely on its charm, and not anywhere near its story, or its sometimes odd script that doesn’t always have the faintest clue what it wants to be, or do.

6 / 10

Take the skates off and yeah, they’re just a bunch of punks! Get a job, ya damn kids!

Photos Courtesy of: Fox Searchlight

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It’s Only the End of the World (2016)

Families rule. Or so I’m told.

After being away for so very, very long, Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) finally returns home to, hopefully, let his whole family what he’s been up to, what his future plans are, and oh yeah, that he’s probably going to die pretty soon. Of course, though, that one last piece of knowledge seems like it’s going to be a lot harder to get out – not because it’s so tragic and heart-breaking, making it all the more difficult to actually tell loved ones about, but because his whole family is so loud, so tense, and so wild, that he can’t even get a word in edgewise. For instance, there’s his older brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel) and wife Catherine (Marion Cotillard) who, for some reason, can’t think of anything to say to him; Catherine is almost too nice and sincere, whereas Antoine is just constantly angry, over just about everything. Then, there’s Louis younger-sister Suzanne (Léa Seydoux), who he still holds a very close relationship with all of these years later, despite the obvious separation. And then last, but certainly not least, there’s Marianne (Natahlie Baye), who still loves Louis no matter what, but also seems to have her hands a bit full with, well, stuff.

Crazy momma.

It’s odd how It’s Only the End of the World seemed to come and go, without anyone really making a big stink about it. Considering that writer/director Xavier Dolan has become film’s sort of “It Boy” who makes smart, understated, and incredibly pretentious dramedies about difficulty challenging people, it’s weird to see this movie not just get a mixed reception, but barely even hit theaters in the States. It played Cannes, got a weird reception, and that was about it.

But did it really deserve that? Not really.

Granted, It’s Only the End of the World is a bit of a step down from what Dolan has done in the past few years since he showed up, but it’s also another sign that, despite his age, the man’s ambitions are endless. Even with something as small and as freakishly intimate as It’s Only the End of the World, it’s hard to tell just where Dolan’s limits are reached; he seems to go above and beyond the source material’s obvious stagey-ness, and in doing so, shows that he’s adept to other styles, and not just his own. Of course, the movie’s very talky, loud, and almost abrasive, but that’s sort of the point and it fits well with what Dolan does best: Allow for his fragile, complicated characters be themselves.

And in It’s Only the End of the World‘s case, that’s actually fine. There’s no denying the fact that the characters here are all loud-mouths and a little nuts, but there’s also no denying that there’s at least some fun in watching it all play-out. Dolan’s a smart director/writer who knows when it’s best to call down his own little directorial tricks and sort of just let the cast do what they do best, and here, with this small, yet solid ensemble, he does just the ticket. Everyone here is good, with perhaps Cotillard’s more subtle, somewhat subdued performance being the best apart from all of the craziness, getting the chance to play the material up, have some fun, but also uncover a bit of a darker, more emotional side to it all, too.

Still, for some reason, angst-ridden adult.

But the issue with all of this also comes down to character-development, which honestly, can’t be found here.

Sure, this may have a little something to do with the subject-material itself not quite having everything that’s needed for a feature full-length, but it also does come down to Dolan himself, who seems like he cares too much about the performances, and less about what’s going on beyond them. In his past few movies, despite all featuring great performances, Dolan hasn’t forgotten to at least give us some small crumb of character, in whoever he chooses; the performances themselves may be big, loud and bombastic, but at the same time, there’s something going on underneath it all to work.

In It’s Only the End of the World, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of that there and it ends up hurting the movie. See, it’s one thing to have a bunch of loud, angry characters yelling all of the time and constantly fighting, but it’s also another thing to see all of that, and have no idea why any of it is happening. Dolan runs into the issue of just setting his dysfunctional characters down in the same room together, let them spar, and expect us to forget about everything else that matters; no matter how entertaining these verbal-battles get, there still seems to be something missing, like a rhyme or reason why.

And honestly, we never get that.

Just small, subtle hints about why these characters are all so pissed-off and yelling, but never anything else. And that’s an issue. It’s an issue when your whole movie revolves around a bunch of people for an-hour-and-a-half, but it’s also an issue for your movie when you decide to shoot each and everyone of these characters in extreme close-ups. Once again, there’s no denying the artistry of Dolan, but yeah, sometimes one needs to cool themselves down a bit.

Consensus: Smart, engaging performances can’t make up for the fact that It’s Only the End of the World is a little too repetitive and thinly-written to become the masterclass in storytelling that Dolan’s previous films were.

6 / 10

And oh yeah, the sort of mismatched, married-couple. So French!

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

Yep. Vampires exist. But only in Iran.

Set in some cold, dark and downright mysterious town somewhere in Iran, lurks a skateboarding vampire (Sheila Vand) who preys on almost everyone around her, but most importantly, men who do wrong by women. So in a way, she’s a vigilante, but at the same time, begins to start to realize that there’s more to life than just killing and sucking the blood out of people. Believe it or not, the vampire meets a human being (Arash Marandi) who may not just have the hots for this blood-sucking creature, but she may even have it for him in return! After all, he’s a hot, young, hip, and chill guy, who listens to rad music and likes to be nice to those around him, so what’s there not to love, or better yet, not try to kill and suck all of the blood out of? However, it gets harder and harder for this vampire to make up its mind of what it wants to do, when it not only starts to have the need for blood, but also realizes that the city around her is getting worse, with all sorts of ugly and catastrophic violence occurring.

Got to do that make-up right for the blood-shed.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night probably deserves a lot of props for being as odd, as weird, and as original as it can be. It’s a horror movie, about a vampire, lurking on possible prey, which already sounds pretty lame and formulaic, but writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour does something neat with the familiar premise in that she adds a little zest and spice to the whole thing. She adds a unique neo-noir look and feel to the movie, that could have easily been just another tension-piece about a vampire, but instead, turns into this home movie of sorts, where it seems like Amirpour is just using whatever is at her disposal, as opposed to just making a movie, expecting for all of these things to come to her.

Obviously, that sort of stuff takes time.

And yeah, Amirpour makes it all worth it. There’s something exciting about watching a first-time film-maker show their true colors, once and for all, with absolute, undeniable style, as well as a great deal of originality, which helps Amirpour out. She tackles something easy and conventional, and puts a smart spin on it that doesn’t just keep the movie, at times, interesting, but the genre of vampire movies, as well.

Then again, there is such an issue here in that it’s so darn slow. And normally, a deliberately plodding and slow pace to a movie like this is fine for me as is the case with most tension-pieces, where it isn’t about the shocks, the scares, the blood, or hell, even the gore, but more about the suspense racking up, slowly but surely over time, without ever seeming like it’s stopping. In Amirpour’s case, it’s nice that she didn’t lose track of what she wanted to do, but there are times where it feels like she could perhaps pick up the pace a tad bit, and opts not to.

Come on, bro. Be nice to the cat! It’s just a gag, after all!

Is this a case of a first-time director just having a ball with their new toys and not wanting to stop playing with them?

Or, well, is it a little pretentious?

In a way, it’s a mixture of both. It’s sweet to see Amirpour want to play with all of the treats she has, for a much longer time, but there does come a point where all the treats have to be simmered down a bit and an actual story has to go on along. The fact that the movie does have a compelling romance-arch at the center of all the hookers, drugs, guns, murder, blood-sucking, and electronic music, is something to point out, but the movie gets so distracted by its own coolness that, sometimes, it can’t help but feel like the story itself is just playing second-fiddle to Amirpour and her coolio style.

Once again, the style is cool and definitely a nice touch, for once, but at times, it does bring the movie back from being much, much better. It works as a horror movie, that obviously has some goofier, lighter touches, but it also tries to double as a message-piece, about feminism, politics, and the drug wars, that also doesn’t feel like it gets anywhere. Granted, these are themes and ideas you really have to dig down deep for here, but they are there and well, they feel like a stretch, at best.

But hey, it’s her first movie. She’s allowed to let loose a bit.

Consensus: Rather odd and unique, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night definitely gets points for originality and style, but also loses some points for not knowing when to settle down, pick up the pace, and well, tell the story. Especially when said story is actually a compelling to watch play out and develop.

6 / 10

Vampire? Naw.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Obit (2017)

You’re dead, but are you forgotten?

Newspapers are dying and guess what? So are people, too! And to make sure that those names, faces, and famous figures aren’t forgotten by the rest of the world, the obituaries are there to write it all up. But most importantly, at the New York Times, one of the most prestigious and well-known newspapers still around, there’s still this need to ensure that every person who dies, whether well-known, or not, get their bits and pieces in the newspaper. But as we see, even those famous and incredibly talented writers run into issues that every journalist runs into; whether it’s getting all of the facts correct, finding the right sources, or hell, even making sure that it’s the right length, these writers have to make sure that their stories go down without a hitch. And even if there is one, what’s next to do?

Unfortunately, most will not even know what this logo means.

For a fellow journalist, Obit is a nice documentary because, even in our current climate, where journalists, the media, and news people in general, are getting attacked for going out there in the real world and reporting on, well, the news, it’s still nice to see that writing, words, and news itself, are still important to our society. And even those people that still decide to stick through it all, even when the world is changing and the job-field is getting smaller and more limited, deserve to have the spotlight shined on them, even if it’s for only a short amount of time. It reminds me why I love being a journalist and why I enjoy going out there, getting a story done, and figuring out what works best, what doesn’t, and so on and so forth.

It sounds boring, I know, but for someone in my field, it’s like a kid at a candy store.

The same kind of feeling that, in all honesty, I never felt with Obit.

And this isn’t to say that the movie is bad – it’s well put-together in that it’s paced nicely, smooth, looks great, polished, and yeah, gets as much information out there for an-hour-and-a-half that’s absolutely necessary. But by the same token, it still feels like the kind of thing that would have been much better off as an hour-long This American Life special, as opposed to an-hour-and-a-half-long movie that has some nice points and ideas to make for at least 30 minutes, but then sort of rambles on and for the next hour or so. It’s the kind of documentary that goes into the subject/topic, knowing that it doesn’t have a clear-cut story to begin with, so instead, plays like a fly-on-the-wall, but also shows why certain documentaries that sort of just wing it, can be a little annoying to watch.

What’s a newspaper? Is that like the internet?

Which isn’t to say that these kinds of documentaries that just sit there and document everything that they see and are told, are bad movies in the first place; a similar one like Page One, plays the same way, but is compelling, exciting, interesting, and well, fun-to-watch, despite not really having a story in mind. Obit has an idea in its mind and attempts to make something out of nothing, but ultimately just rambles on and on, without an idea, or direction of where to go with itself. It made me wish for more specific cases and, honestly, a tighter-production.

Still though, it serves, at best, a tribute to those who actually have these jobs, writing about dead people, both famous and not, who still try their best to make sure that the absolute truth gets out. In that sense, then yes, Obit works; it gives us the right people to watch and listen to, as well as some interesting cases where these writers were tested. However, it also feels like, once again, there’s almost too many of them, with so very little to be known about each and everyone, that makes me wonder if there was a longer-cut of this out there somewhere, or if there just wasn’t all that much to really work with?

Honestly, I’m not sure. But yeah, Obit‘s fine. Just don’t expect a whole much.

Consensus: Though it shines a nice light on journalism and journalists, as a whole, Obit still feels like its got very little to work with, for a very long time, by offering only small bits and pieces of interesting tidbits.

6 / 10

Pictured: The hell of the New York Times.

Photos Courtesy of: Rotten TomatoesBrightest Young Things

The Book of Henry (2017)

And what an odd book that is.

Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is a lot like every other 11-year-old-kid out there in the world. He’s awkward, a little weird, sometimes quiet, nice, sweet, and oh yeah, brilliant-as-hell. In fact, he’s maybe a bit too smart for his own good and at times, that finds him not just getting into trouble with people who could possibly be his friend, but even his own family. Although, both his mother, Susan (Naomi Watts), and little brother, Peter (Jacob Tremblay), love him immensely, they also know that he can be a bit much. They also know that his brain is so huge, with such an insane amount of knowledge, that they actually use it to their advantage; her, for help on the stocks and how to save money, and him, for emotional support through these rough times of growing up. But something changes in all of their lives that not only affects Henry especially, but all the other people around them, leaving the family to make some drastic, almost disastrous decisions.

If you thought one annoying precocious kid was bad enough……

A part of me wants to absolutely and totally annihilate the Book of Henry for being a ridiculously messy, uneven, weird, sometimes way-too-stupid-for-its-own-good take movie about growing up, learning who you are, death, and oh yeah, child-abuse, or more importantly, rape. However, there is another part of me that wants to praise it and, at the very, absolute least, respect it for going all-out on a plot that could have been absolutely cookie-cutter and derivative of everything we’ve ever seen done before and taking risks, chances, and certain unpredictable roads, even if yeah, they don’t quite work out. But then, there’s that middle part of me that doesn’t know what to think, say, or hell, even believe in.

After all, if a movie as muddled and as nutty as the Book of Henry can, for at least an-hour-and-a-half, entertain me and sort of surprise me, yet, at the same time, still feel way too weird, than what’s that say about me? I do like bad movies? Do I give them a pass just because they try something different? Or, am I just too broken down and beaten-up by the everyday, conventional blockbusters that are pushed in front of my face that, when something comes to me, from someone, somewhere, regardless of how messy it is, still makes me think and expect something different, that I just have to accept it for what it is and yeah, possibly even like it?

Once again, I don’t know what to think.

A movie like the Book of Henry is challenging. Not because it’s an altogether deeply confusing, or hell, even psychological movie, but more that it’s the kind of movie that doesn’t know what to make of itself so, as a result, the viewer is left with the same feeling. Director Colin Trevorrow, after breaking all sorts of records with Jurassic World two years ago, seems to have gotten carpe diem for the Book of Henry and in a way, is allowed to make this movie as crazy and as weird as he wants. Screenwriter Gregg Hurwitz does deserve some credit for trying something new and, dare I say it, intriguing with the YA genre of films, but even he, at certain points, seems like he’s losing all control.

Which is to say that the Book of Henry, in all honesty, isn’t a good movie; it’s tone is so over-the-place, with a plot that continues to get wackier and wackier, and a silly twist that happens midway through, it’s just not that easy to say it totally works out. If anything, it misses the ball, more than it actually connects with it and because of that, it’s hard to fully recommend this movie to anyone, or hell, even for myself.

…try two!

But like I said, it’s definitely an original. Whether or not that originality works out for itself, or bites its own ass in the end, is a whole other matter to decide on. But Hurwitz and Trevorrow clearly try to make this work as much as they can; Trevorrow constantly keeps the plot moving and Hurwitz, while mostly getting stuck with idiotic lines for precocious 11-year-olds only seen and/or conceived in movies, does try and juggle some things that you’d never expect one to do, yet, sort of respect.

But yeah, like I said, the movie’s just sort of all-over-the-place.

For some reason, however, it still kept me watching. Every opportunity it had to bother me and piss me off to the highest of the heavens, it still brought me back in with trying to figure itself out and go somewhere I did not at all expect it to. It’s the kind of movie that takes some many odd chances on telling its story, seeing just where the hell it can go, stepping back, and eventually, just throwing everything at the wall, that it’s much more interesting to watch than, well, actually entertaining. But hey, if having your mind stimulated while watching big-budgeted movies is entertaining to you, then hell yeah, you’re going to probably the enjoy the hell out of the Book of Henry.

But then again, probably not. I myself am still not sure. And I just reviewed it.

I think.

Consensus: By taking so many risks that so few little movies of its magnitude and well, budget, actually do nowadays, the Book of Henry deserves some kudos for going out on a limb and trying something new, even if it just never coheres together well. Like, at all. So yeah, it’s a mess.

5.5 / 10

And a middle-class, waitress mom who spends her leisurely time playing, guess this, video-games! Naomi Watts, ladies and gentlemen!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

U-571 (2000)

Male-bonding has never been sweatier.

When a German U-571 submarine with a sophisticated encryption machine on=board is sunk during a World War II battle at sea, the Allies send an American Navy force led by Lieutenant Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) to retrieve it for study. But in order to board it, they have to concoct a plan that will not only get the soldiers aboard, but also ensure them safety when they are in the water. Issue is, that doesn’t quite happen as their cover as a rescue force is quickly blown, not just putting their mission at risk, but also their lives. So now with this wrench thrown into their plans, the soldiers must now take German hostages and prepare to destroy the German vessel before the Nazis can send naval backup. This is all so complicated considering that, you know, they’re basically in the middle of nowhere, without poor radio-signal and even worse of all, no way of getting out of this situation alive. In other words, it’s a suicide mission, but it’s for the country, so it’s not so bad, right?

“Shark?”

U-571 has, for good reasons, gotten a lot of flack for not exactly being the most faithful adaptation of what really happened, but then again, I don’t think the movie really tries to go for authenticity, either. It’s the kind of movie that takes a real life moment in WWII, purports itself as sheer and absolute propaganda, but at the same time, also uses this all for the sake of entertainment and fun to be had at the movies, even if, yeah, the story’s not all that true.

Then again, can we really trust Hollywood with this sort of stuff? Not really and that’s why U-571, issues with authenticity aside, is still an enjoyable movie. It’s the kind that you could take a war-vet to see and not only would they absolutely love, but go on and on about how they actually experienced something close to that, except, not really at all. Still, it’s the kind of movie that prides itself on being for the troops, while also trying to remind people that war is hell, explosive, a little crazy, and oh yeah, dangerous as hell, but that’s why it’s left for the heroes and not for us layman, right?

Well, sort of. Maybe. I’m not sure.

Either way, I’m getting away from the point of U-571 and the fact that, directed by Jonathan Mostow, there’s a old-school look and feel to this thing that’s not just slick and polished, but also reminiscent of some of the best submarine-thrillers, albeit this time, with a much-bigger budget. But what’s perhaps most interesting about U-571 is how it takes measures with that bigger-budget, and not only gives us a few great, sweeping shots of the sea, but even puts a little bit more effort into how the submarine itself looks, feels, and well, most especially sounds.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no.”

See, U-571 actually got nominated for a few Oscars back in the day, and even winning one. Sure, they were all technical awards and no way were at all for the silly acting, screenplay, or direction, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re impressive, even by today’s standards. It takes a certain kind of skill and talent to make all of the constant crashes, bangs, and booms, seem like something new and exciting, even when they seem to be happening every five seconds or so; it’s like a Michael Bay film, but there’s actually a reason for all of the loud-sounds and explosions here. If anything, U-571 shows what can happen when you pay enough attention to the technical-details, while also not forgetting to make your movie somewhat good, too.

Basically, I’m just coming at Michael Bay.

That said, of course, U-571 has its issues; like I said before, everything aside from the action and technical-stuff is a little, how should I say it, weak. However, I don’t think it really pulls the movie away from being anymore fun than it already is – it starts off by setting itself off as a silly, stupid, pulpy action-thriller and because of that, the movie never really loses its sense of style, if there is any to be found. It could have been a soulless and totally boring piece of phony propaganda, but it’s fun and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Good story, acting and screenplay be damned!

Consensus: Stupid and loud, but also kind of fun, U-571 runs the risk of being a whole lot, for a very long period of time, but ends up being an entertaining submarine-thriller, that doesn’t really want us to ask questions, but enjoy ourselves with the loud sounds.

6 / 10

Bad-ass soldier-bros. Don’t mess. Especially with Bon Jovi.

Photos Courtesy of: barneyspender, Mutant ReviewersFernby Films

Wilson (2017)

Life’s crap. So talk it out.

Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is a guy who, well, likes to talk. To anyone. About anything. Most of the time, though, he just annoys people by being outspoken, always having something on his mind, and normally, being smart and well-equipped for any conversation. It makes him a nice guy, but also someone who doesn’t quite like the world, making him feel more lonely and isolated. That’s why he decides to track down Pippa (Laura Dern), the ex-wife who left him 17 years earlier. And while they reconnect and everything seems to be great and wonderful, wouldn’t you know it, that the two actually have a kid together, in the form of Claire (Isabella Amara). And while she gave her up for adoption, Wilson decides to bring Pippa along for the ride of finding Claire, getting to know her, and striking up something of a relationship that was clearly missed out on before. It’s something that Wilson wants and, at this point in his life, needs. But it’s also something that may prove to be his ultimate undoing and a true sign that he needs to get with the times and grow up a bit.

I don’t know if she’s shocked that he found their kid, or that they had sex together to begin with?

Wilson is from the masterful brain and mind of Daniel Clowes, who knows a thing or two about making fun of the social norm and everyday life that is regular society. And in this movie, we do get a bunch of that; constant conversations about technology, life, love, friendships, work, and so on and so forth, casually gets discussed and honestly, they verge on being brilliant. Clowes is a smart writer who actually has an ear for dialogue, even if the dialogue does lead to characters just going on and on about silly stuff.

In a way, he’s a pessimistic Kevin Smith, for better and for worse.

But what’s odd about Wilson is that it feels like a lot of that brilliance gets lost in the shuffle of a story that doesn’t quite make sense, nor ever really come together. It’s as if director Craig Johnson knew that Clowes’ material was great and hilarious, but also realized that in order to make this all work in one, cohesive picture, he needed to create a story, with plot-archs, character-development, and well, feelings. He gets some of that right, but really, it feels like he’s straining a bit; it’s almost as if he just wants to keep on sitting by and listening to these conversations and not really get brought down by something as lame and conventional as plot.

Life is grand. So stop talking about it, bro!

And who could blame him? As Wilson, Woody Harrelson is pretty great, showing a funny, nice, and rather sweet guy, who often times gets brought down by his own anger and frustration with the world around him. It’s a role that could have been very one-note and, well, boring, but Harrelson handles this kind of thing with absolute charm, allowing for the material to click when it should. And the rest of the ensemble, with Isabella Amara, Judy Greer and Laura Dern, among others, are all pretty good, too, showing off a great deal of lightness and fun, even when the material gets sort of stuck.

And it’s why Wilson can often times be a disappointment. Johnson’s past two movies (True Adolescents, The Skeleton Twins) have both been thoughtful, smart, and heartfelt looks inside the lives of people we only see in indie-movies. While that can sometimes give off a negative breath of air, in ways, it works for him. He tries to do the same thing with Wilson, but mostly, he gets lost in a plot that doesn’t know what it wants to be about. Does it want for Wilson to grow up and accept his responsibilities? Does it want him to leave his only child alone? Does it want him to be sad? More depressed? Fed-up with the world around him?

Honestly, I’m not sure. And nor do I think Wilson himself is, hence why this is a bit of a disappointment. So much more could have been done, had there been more attention paid to the things that truly, honestly matter.

Consensus: Wilson has some streaks of absolute hilarity, but mostly, feels like a sad attempt on trying to string together a bunch of character-beats and ideas, alongside a plot that doesn’t gel.

6 / 10

They’re a happy family. They’re a happy family.

Photos Courtesy of: Roger EbertThe PlaylistFilm Blerg

Krisha (2016)

Jesus. Just stay home and have a nice TV dinner.

Thanksgiving is a time not just made for celebration, but good times, relaxation, and also getting to spend time with your loved ones. And in some ways, it’s even better to do that with family who you haven’t seen in quite some time – not to just let them know how you’re doing, but also what they’re up to and trying to figure out how to ensure that a constant dialogue is kept from there on out. However, for Krisha (Krisha Fairchild), Thanksgiving is going to be a bit of a ride, what with practically her whole family, not really liking her. See, Krisha’s got a bit of a drug-problem that has, unfortunately, turned her into a bit of a nut-ball, pushing members of her family further and further away. But most importantly, it’s the friendship with her estranged son (Trey Edward Shults) that she longs for the most and, honestly, she may not get her way. How she reacts to it will either make, or totally break the holiday spirit.

Getting there…..

The neat idea about Krisha is that it’s basically like every other movie concerning a holiday dinner, in which long, lost family-members get back together, reunite, drink, eat, yuck about, and eventually, get into sparring bouts over silly stuff that doesn’t really matter, but this time, with much more style. See, writer/director Trey Edward Shults pulls-off this neat idea where Krisha, the movie, is basically a horror movie, without any monsters, ghouls, or well, anything scary all that happening. It’s building up tension in the everyday normality of life, that it almost seems obvious, deliberate and a bit showy, but it’s also quite fun to watch – not just because it can be awfully relatable, but Shults may be something with his style.

Then again, maybe he’s not.

In fact, there’s a good portion that Krisha was just such an easy idea to shoot and make a full-length feature-flick out of, without having to spend a whole lot of money with, that it probably was done for that reason. There’s no real point made about families, the spirit of Thanksgiving, or even alcoholism; basically, we’re just watching a family-reunion and dinner that was essentially doomed from the start. Sounds conventional for sure, but what Shults does with the material is interesting, in the small, subtle, yet effective ways that he constantly frames it all like a never-ending horror-chiller, where everything is about to go all up in flames, a train is about to crash, and the world is going to end, and well, all we can do is sit back and watch.

Yup. Sounds exactly like Thanksgiving dinner to me.

Getting closer…..

Anyway, Shults gets a lot of mileage out of his cast here, most of whom are actually just his own family in the first place. Hell, even Shults himself shows up in the movie and gives probably the worst performance of the whole ensemble, which makes you wonder if he just needed someone to fill that role and couldn’t get anyone at the last minute, or is he going to be a softcore version of Tarantino, casting himself in these bit roles in his great movies, making him seem more and more like an egomaniac? I don’t know and well, it doesn’t totally matter, because behind the camera, he does a solid job; he keeps it moving, somewhat exciting, and pretty tense, even when it feels like literally nothing is going to happen.

But of course, a great deal of that praise deserves to go towards Shult’s real-life aunt, Krisha Fairchild, who I haven’t seen before and it’s a damn shame. It’s actually interesting that Shults seems to cast his whole family here, because even with the exception of him, they can mostly all act – Krisha is probably the most perfect and obvious example of that because while she’s playing a pretty loud, big and showy role at times, she still knows how to dial it down a smidge to where we do see a human being underneath all of the craziness. In a way, Fairchild reminds me a lot of Gena Rowlands here, in that she can be so over-the-top and unpredictable, you can’t keep your eyes off of her, but you also know that there’s some bridge of humanity, that it makes her even more watchable.

In this case, then yeah, casting your family is a smart idea. Just don’t turn into the Smith’s over there, Shults.

Consensus: While a bit showy and pretentious, even despite its awfully simple premise, Krisha still works by taking a different approach to familiar material, and also allowing for its lead to run rings.

6.5 / 10

Yup. Full-blown crazy.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Before I Fall (2017)

High school is life. Then you die.

Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) seems to have everything that a girl in high school could ever possibly want. She’s popular, she’s got a loving boyfriend (Kian Lawley), who may, or may not be ready to take her virginity, a solid group of gal pals, and oh yeah a seemingly perfect future, filled with fame, fortune, and plenty of good times to be had. But that all changes when, after a late night party, Samantha and all of her friends are killed in a car-accident. But rather than living the rest of her existence in what some may refer to as “the afterlife”, Samantha instead relives her final day, over and over again, falling asleep, and waking up to the same day. At first, Samantha has no clue what’s happening, so she lashes out and gets reckless. But after awhile, she starts to realize that maybe this is a calling, hell, maybe even a sign for her to start treating those around her with respect, love and admiration. Cause after all, a lot can happen in a day and hell, sometimes, just a day, can make a whole difference.

Uh oh. Mean girls!

So yeah, Before I Fall is, essentially, the YA Groundhog Day and by now, I think we’ve seen enough spins on that same narrative trick, in all honesty. And hell, it’s not like it’s not worth trying to see just how Hollywood can change around the gimmick, but after awhile, it’s hard to find anything else new out of it. We get it, life is beautiful and it’s a thing we shouldn’t take for granted.

Hell, even Ferris Bueller told us that, and he didn’t need a single gimmick.

However, Before I Fall is still a nice, rather enjoyable piece of YA-fiction that doesn’t quite strain itself to be more important than it actually is, but instead, stick to its roots and show us that high school, while a confusing and sometimes silly point in all of our lives, has a greater effect on our own well-being than we actually think. Before I Fall doesn’t try to say that high school is life, or that high school is greatest time of it, but it does say that it’s a time where you’re still growing, understanding, and realizing just who the hell you, your friends, and family are. It’s also the same time in which you think long and hard about where you want to set the course for the rest of your life, which can be both a problem, as well as a beautiful thing.

But at the same time, Before I Fall is still a sappy, melodramatic and rather cheesy YA movie that deals with honest feelings about coming-of-age, but also feels like it’s a little too ordinary and orchestrated to be as painfully real as it wants. Before she got involved with this, director Ry Russo-Young has actually been hopping around the indie-world, making small, intimate, and rather quiet movies about day-to-day humans and the connections that they have. They aren’t great movies, but they’re at least pretty interesting to watch.

“Why does everyone call me Leah?”

That is to say that Before I Fall feels like another one of her small, quiet and intimate indies, but at the same time, still made for a huge audience that probably would hate those movies. Meaning this one, isn’t all that subtle, loves to spell things out and yes, even go so far as to have a way-too-hip-and-cool soundtrack that feels like it just wants to be bought at a Best Buy (they still exist, right?).

That said, it is hard to hate on a movie, and a mainstream one at that, that’s all about being nice, kind and loving to those around you, and realizing who’s ugly, mean and distasteful. It’s not something new, or better yet, ground-breaking to see in a YA movie dealing with high school kids, but hey, it’s worth pointing out in the first place.

And oh yeah, it’s worth pointing out that Zoey Deutch is charming as hell.

While it’s hard to get past the fact that she’s the daughter of Lea Thompson (mostly because they look so ridiculously alike), Deutch still has a certain thing about her where she’s pretty, but also a lot smarter than you’d think. Over time, we start to see that there’s more to be seen and understood about Samantha, which makes her character more interesting and compelling over time, and Deutch handles it well. While she was definitely better in Everybody Wants Some!! (mostly because Richard Linklater is God and knows how to write women incredibly well), she’s still good here and shows us that she’s ready to be the new teen idol.

Hm. Sort of like, I don’t know, her mom?

Consensus: A tad cheesy, melodramatic and soapy, Before I Fall is another YA flick that feels like it has more to say, but mostly falls back on its occasionally clever premise and gimmick.

6 / 10

Damn millennials and their selfies.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

War Machine (2017)

War is bad, m’kay?

Four-star General Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt) is one of the most respected men in the Army and it’s why all of the men that he surrounds himself with, not only just stand by every word he says, but also seem to have his back no matter what. Which is why when he’s sent to Afghanistan to bring the war to an end, they can’t help but do whatever it is that he asks of them. But it’s a rough situation McMahon and his men find themselves in; for one, they have to do the impossible tasks of stopping insurgencies for constantly forming and killing people. Second of all, they have to ensure that the politicians the U.S. wants in Afghanistan’s office, actually do get elected, so that they can promote “peace and tranquility”, despite the fact that the U.S. actually invaded Afghanistan in the first place. All that said, McMahon is a class-act and more than up to the task, but after a short while, even he finds himself on the receiving-end of all sorts of screw-ups that don’t seem to be coming from his directly, but somehow, he’s getting the blame for. When is he going to crack?

Grandpa?

War Machine is an odd movie in that it’s no doubt a satire on the war in Afghanistan, and how the U.S. clearly had no idea how to end its conflict without looking dirty, mean and downright brutal, but it’s also a movie that tries to go a bit deeper and ask us how we get there in the first place. In that sense, the movie doesn’t quite work; War Machine is a movie that’s far too enamored with its silly, sometimes off-the-wall characters and the situations they find themselves in, to really get all that involved with what really causes war and conflict between two nations to begin with. Sure, are those ideas played with here? Yes, they are, but they almost seem like they don’t go far enough to really stick the knife in and twist it, like all good satires do.

You know, like Three Kings, for starters.

But hey, War Machine isn’t Three Kings, which isn’t a good thing, or a bad one – it’s just a thing. They’re both satires that make fun of the war, as well as the people who find themselves wrapped-up in them, but the former clearly has a certain angle it’s wanting to take, getting down into the PR-side of it all. In fact, War Machine does work best when it’s trying to develop just how a country can look when they’re not just trying to end a war they sort of started, but just how they can do it all without looking like the evil and maniacal beings that they probably are. It’s an interesting conflict that already sits next to other interesting conflicts to be seen here, but it also makes me feel like War Machine could have been longer.

Then again, at two hours, the movie doesn’t feel long, nor does it ever really drag. It moves, even if it can’t always figure out a perfect tone to stick with, but that’s normal with most satires. Having fun and making jokes are easy to do, but when it comes to turning that other cheek and getting all serious, then yeah, it’s a little bit more difficult. That said, writer/director David Michôd does a solid job here transitioning between the many threads of plot and tone, even if by the end, it still sort of feels like it may have benefited from some more developing on certain ends.

Two worlds collide.

For example, while it was nice we got see some heart and humanity behind Pitt’s McMahon, where was everybody else’s in this insanely-stacked cast? After all, the movie does sort of pride itself on the fact that McMahon’s surrounded by this rag-tag group of goobers, who may also be efficient at their jobs, or may just be good enough that McMahon lets them slide on doing rather dumb stuff. In fact, a much more developed and concise movie probably would have kept the focus fully on this group alone and sort of had all of the other stuff go by the waist side. Because, yeah, when you have Anthony Michael Hall, John Magaro, RJ Cyler, Tilda Swinton, Ben Kingsley, Scoot McNairy, Will Poulter, Griffin Dunne, Alan Ruck, Emory Cohen, Keith Stanfield, and hell, even Topher Grace here, feeling as if they’re maybe, I don’t know, a bit dumped around, it’s a shame.

But hey, at least Pitt’s good, right? As always? Right?

Well, actually yes. See, while all of the reviews have been criticizing his role as just another goofy and rugged take on Aldo Raine, but this time, older and with grayer hair, it actually worked for me. In a way, it was nice to see Pitt take on a role that was clearly meant for an older fella (which he is), in which he gets to be both charming, as well as a little stern. Some of his mannerisms are a bit over-the-top and maybe put-upon, but it’s hard to get annoyed by them after awhile, especially once we see this character away from the spotlight and just chatting it up with those around him, especially in the lovely, yet, rather sad scenes he has with his wife, as played by Meg Tilly. Pitt may be playing a character here for sure, but he tries to go deeper and the movie helps him in that regard.

Is it his finest hour? Nope, but hey, it’s still a joy to watch.

Consensus: Tonally uneven and a bit underdeveloped, War Machine could have benefited from some more time, perhaps, but thanks to a smart message and solid cast, it goes by easy.

6.5 / 10

Still muggin’ it, eh Brad?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Buster’s Mal Heart (2017)

Yeah, life can be weird.

There’s an eccentric mountain man named Buster (Rami Malek), who, for one reason or another, is surviving the winter by breaking into empty vacation homes in a remote community. While Buster isn’t his actual real name, he mostly acquired it by calling up local talk shows to rant and rave about the impending Inversion at the turn of the millennium. Of course, people just assume he is a total nut and leave it at that, but there’s actually more to Buster than just crazy and insane theories. Believe it or not, back in the day, or at least, so we think, he was a married-man, with a wife (Kate Lyn Sheil), a kid, and yes, in-laws that bothered the heck out of him. But he’s constantly by what happened to them, him, and the role that he may have played.

He’s a mountain man.

Buster’s Mal Heart is being described a whole lot as “a Donnie Darko-type” that means it’s just weird and supernatural enough to charm all the sci-fi loving nerds of the world, and also still realistic and humane enough to be, well, a movie for almost everyone. Although, to say the least, this movie isn’t for everyone; it’s a little weird, a little twisted, and most of all, a tad confusing. However, there’s something to be said for a movie that does seem to trust its audience in filling certain gaps that perhaps scenes or moments of obvious dialogue could.

It’s like, get this, writer/director Sarah Adina Smith knows we came to see her movie, to not just think, but also be a bit challenged.

That’s fine for me, because while it’s not an easy movie to fully immerse yourself in, Buster’s Mal Heart still does a lot of interesting and neat little tricks that make you think that the ideas are here, but maybe, just maybe, the execution may be a bit flawed. After all, it’s a morbid and rather sad movie about a dude losing his crap and why that all happens, without ever seeming to actually explain why it all went so downhill. Then, the movie does and it feels a little plain and conventional and a tad random, as if we didn’t really need an explanation in the first place.

That said, Smith takes her time with this story, developing it, and telling us what we need to know to keep us going. Seeing Buster as a squatting, fully-bearded mountain man is odd, but then seeing him as Jonah, the lonely, bored and rather odd hotel clerk, makes the movie even more odd. But it still works because we’re watching two stories be told to us, with a certain amount of deliberate pacing that helps us in the small, yet subtle and meaningful ways that work for weird movies such as this.

Marriott Inn better have a good Fire Wall.

Just like Donnie Darko, although, when compared, this movie clearly takes the cake.

Then again, was that already obvious in the first place?

Regardless, in the lead role, Rami Malek does a nice job showing us a normal, everyday dude who has some oddly weird and rather sinister thoughts and ideas brewing underneath the appearance. Watching Malek play a nut-ball can be occasionally amusing, but watching him as he loses all control, even when he’s with his family, or at his job, is actually more compelling. After all, watching a crazy person be crazy, while sometimes amusing, can often times get boring because, well, we know what they are and that’s it. However, watching a crazy person act normal, in everyday situations are way more compelling, mostly because we never fully know where they’re going to go, or when they’re going to let out the crazy cries. Malek does that well on Mr. Robot, but he does that especially well here and it makes me think that perhaps it’s time he take on more movie roles, rather than getting stuck on a crazily pretentious show that, with all hopes, will come back into our good graces when the second season premieres.

But that’s another story, another day, and hell, a whole site in general. Not this.

Consensus: While definitely odd and off-kilter, Buster’s Mal Heart still gets by on keeping itself just weird and clear enough to stay compelling, even when it veers into absolute weirdness that’s almost a little hard to explain.

6.5 / 10

We get it. You’re nuts. Let’s move on, shall we?

Photos Courtesy of: Everything is Everything, Gamechanger Films, Snowfort Pictures

Head Games (2012)

So, don’t play sports?

Ever play a sport and you took a really big hit? Such a big hit, in fact, that your whole head feels like water, you start seeing stars, and you automatically get dizzy, leading to a huge rush of sickness? Well, yeah, that’s called a “concussion”. But while those out there may push it off as something that happens in sports, especially when you’re doing a great and heavy job for you, as well as your team, it’s actually not supposed to happen as often it does. In fact, one concussion is more than enough for you, your head, and your brain to handle, making it all the more crucial that you don’t get any concussions. But how? Stay away from sports altogether? Or do we join them, with certain safety precautions, in hopes that people don’t get concussions and end up living normal, safe lives?

Honestly, the answers just aren’t easy.

Please, guys. Just don’t hit each other. Possibly hug?

Head Games subject-material, also feels like it scratches the surface of its controversial topic. For instance, in today’s world, the concussion issue in professional sports is still somewhat of a hot-button topic that gets talked about again and again, but for some odd reason, there still has yet to be as much movement as there should be on it. Do these sorts of things take time to get going? Have people simply forgotten about these issues? Or, simply, is it just the way of the world that pressing issues that need to be addressed immediately, just don’t right away and take their good old damn time getting talked about and figured out?

Sadly, it seems like more of the later and it’s why Head Games, while smart, compelling, and raising all sorts of valid points, also feels like it never gets the opportunity to dig as it probably should have. And hell, even at a little over 80 minutes, the movie actually feels a little long; after about an hour or so, the message is clear and understood. What follows for the next 20 or so minutes just feels a tad bit like overkill. Something that probably could have been an interesting segment of SportsCenter, sadly, feels overlong and a bit repetitive.

Is what’s being repeated here, again and again, deserving of it? Of course, but at the same time, it can’t also help but feel like a documentary running out of places to go.

Kids. Just take the helmets off and go somewhere else. Anywhere but here.

But director Steve James does help Head Games in that he never seems to take the focus off of those who know about concussions in professional sports and aren’t afraid to let the world know about it. In fact, Head Games probably could have benefited from more interviews, both with people who have suffered concussions and brain-injuries as a result, or those who are starting out in sports and aren’t sure where to go, what with all of these people getting concussions and, as a result, losing their minds at an early age. But who we get, what these people speak about, and why they’ve decided to finally speak-up, are all important and matter to a little movie such as this, that not only seems to be taking on a bit of an underdog stance on its subject, but also seems like its preaching to a choir that’s heard their tune before, but for some reason, just won’t listen.

And this is where Head Games, like I’ve said before, gets a little troubling. It begins to dig in deep into Roger Goodell, the NFL, the NHL, and all other professional sports, for their weak-stances on the protection of its players and it’s clear that James, as well as everyone else, clearly wants the documentary to go somewhere with it all. But like I said before, the movie just sort of stops; the story is still ongoing and always developing, making Head Games, while a smart and informative movie about concussions and near-fatal injuries in the already violent world of professional sports, still feel like it has places to go, but it just never can quite get there.

Let’s hope that tide changes soon.

Consensus: Even while still feeling incomplete, mostly due to timing and whatnot, Head Games still paints a powerfully sad and honest picture at concussions in professional sports, why they’re something to fear with every bit of your life, and why something should be done about them immediately.

6.5 / 10

Same image as the poster, but it deserves to be repeated: DON’T PLAY FOOTBALL.

Photos Courtesy of: The Film LLC

Risk (2017)

What’s up with all these hacker-bros and sex?

Filmmaker Laura Poitras, after being, once again, flagged by the United States Government as “Un-American” decides that it’s time to start following and documenting the life and times of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his team who, in the early 2010’s, was red hot with infamy and controversy from the whole entire world, for better and for worse. However, while the portrait of Assange starts off relatively nice and flattering, it soon turns ugly when it’s revealed that Assange is being accused of sexual-assault by a few women that he may, or may not have, had sex with. Then, it gets worse when Poitras herself begins to strike up a relationship with another hacker and WikiLeaks member in Jacob Appelbaum who, like Assange, is accused of committing the same sort of sex crimes. It all eventually piles up into more legal cases and issues that Poitras has no idea what to expect from next, especially since Assange himself is constantly changing before her very own eyes.

The government can’t find you if you’re underwater.

Risk is much like Citizenfour, in that we’re getting an up-close-and-personal view of this controversial and rare figure. But Risk is also like Citizenfour in that it’s sort of not really a documentary in the general sense, as much as it’s just a bunch of scenes, over and over again, watching some dude talk about technology, type on his computer, talk on the phone, and yeah, act really freakin’ paranoid. It’s crazy that Poitras got this kind of access to not just Snowden, but also Assange, especially when he was at the peak of his fame, but at the same time, there can be something said for a documentary that’s basically the same as its predecessor, except in this case, it’s someone who’s a lot less interesting to watch and hear from.

And why is that? Well, it comes down to a little thing we like to call “timing”.

See, Risk is the kind of documentary that not only feels a few years too late, but sort of also forgets to cover the most important and notable event that occurs later on (the Clinton documents being leaked during the election). It feels like the kind of movie that had a lot of footage to work with, some of it interesting, some of it not, and Poitras, being the smart film-maker that she is, has to choose from all of it. What she ends up allowing in the final product is fine, but once again, it’s a lot of the same stuff, over and over again.

But this time, like I said before, it’s with Assange who, in all honesty, just isn’t all that interesting to listen to. He goes on and on about hacking and the world wide web, but it kind of goes nowhere. You can tell that he’s just ranting, with no clear end in sight, and what’s weird is that Poitras never seems to edit any of it; it’s like she’s too nice to him to really make him out to be the fool that he is.

Assange. Julian Assange.

Which is why Risk does bring up an interesting point about Assange and this whole legion of hackervists who are, essentially, heroes to the underground political world, but may also be just as slummy and as dirty as the people they are going out after. It’s nice to see a movie not shy away from this fact and provide perfect and nitty, gritty detail to it all, but once again, it’s been done before and doesn’t feel totally fresh. It’s all about timing here, people, and yeah, Poitras was just a little late to the button.

It’s not her fault, it’s just how life works out in general.

Sometimes, you get to the right person, at the right time, like she did with Snowden, but other times, you get the right person, at the right time, sit on it for awhile and then, yeah, public-interest for said right person, goes out the window. Maybe that’s just my own personal feelings about Assange, WikiLeaks and his supposed “morals”, but really, it all comes down to whether or not this guy has anything compelling to say or do for an-hour-and-a-half in the spotlight and well, he really doesn’t. A simple blog post would have honestly been fine.

Consensus: Laura Poitras is brave and smart in getting the footage she needs, but Risk, at the same time, also feels like it’s late to the party, focusing on someone who, honestly, the public has lost interest in and has mostly just become a bit of a joke, with only some of that being highlighted and focused on here.

6 / 10

Now I see what Pam Anderson sees.

Photos Courtesy of: Marshall and the Movies, Variety, Rotten Tomatoes

On a Clear Day (2005)

Swim upstream. Or down. Depending on your mood.

After losing his job at a Glasgow shipyard that he’s been working at for quite some time, 50-year-old Frank (Peter Mullan) doesn’t really have much going on in his life. While his wife (Brenda Blethyn) is practicing to become a bus-driver and become the soul bread-maker of the family, Frank is looking anywhere he can for a job, that doesn’t just pay, but also get him out of this funk that he’s been in ever since a tragedy hit him and his family many, many years ago. That’s why, even though a casual remark is made by a buddy of his, Frank gets an idea: to swim the English Channel. While it’s rather outlandish and silly, Frank is determined enough to make the dream a reality and with the help of his closest friends and of course, his loving and supportive family, Frank sets forth on a training regimen that will help him achieve his goal. But that goal is a lot harder to achieve when you already have so much baggage on land, in the first place.

Peter Mullan, or David Beckham? Nope, definitely Peter Mullan.

On a Clear Day is such a cute, little adorable movie that it’s hard to really point out any faults about it. Of course, there are quite a few, but at the end of the picture, do any of them really matter? Because while the movie isn’t as deep as it wants to be, nor is it ever really as smart, either, On a Clear Day, when all is said and done, is charming, nice, and rather enjoyable. It’s the kind of movie that’s safe, inoffensive, and essentially, perfect for the whole family, in the same ways that Disney movies are, but instead of talking cartoons, it’s actual, real life human beings.

And instead of singing, everyone’s just yelling in heavy Scottish accents.

But there’s not much of a problem with a heavy accent – in fact, half of the charm of On a Clear Day is from where it takes place and the overall setting. It’s a calm, easy and rather lovely little place where everyone knows each other and is able to lend a helping hand. However, on the other side, it’s also a dark, sometimes muggy town that sees people losing jobs, day in and day out, and more immigration to the big cities, than ever.

So is it really all that happy and lovely? Not really, but that’s one of the many aspects On a Clear Day hints at with itself. It never gets as deep, or as dark, or as depressing as it wants to, which is sometimes okay, but other times, it does feel like it’s keeping itself away from being better and much more thought-provoking. Does that make it a bad movie? Not really, but it makes it one that had plenty of promise to go to some deep, heavy places, but instead, chose the safe way out.

“Oi, ladeys. Who’s swimmin?”

Sometimes, there’s no problem with that. At least most would be pleased.

But then again, it’s hard to be mad at a movie like On a Clear Day when the cast assembled are so wonderful and fun to watch, that at the end of it all, it’s almost like, “Aw, who cares?”. Peter Mullan has been one of the more dependable acts in film today and honestly, it’s no shock; he can play down-and-dirty when he wants, but he can also brighten things up and play charming. Here, he gets to do a little bit of both, although, without ever showing one side too much and it’s actually quite nice. He makes us feel and understand the sadness that exists within Frank’s life, while also showing some glimmers of hope throughout. It’s a slight performance on his radar, for sure, but it’s also a sign that the man knows what he’s doing.

Brenda Blethyn is quite charming, as usual, in the role as his wife. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see a whole lot more of her, other than trying to talk to Frank and, on occasion, getting into arguments with him about his life and their history together. A much smarter movie probably would have focused on how both of their lives are affected, but eh, so be it. Blethyn still gets a couple of opportunities to show why she’s great in these smart, yet very strong women roles and it goes without saying that I wish there was more of her now.

Maybe some day. On a clear day, perhaps?

Consensus: While slight, small and relatively safe, On a Clear Day is also quite a lovely movie that doesn’t go as deep as it should, but does have a charming cast to make up for its issues.

6 / 10

Hey, Michael Phelps had to start somewhere, right?

Photos Courtesy of: Icon Pictures

The Lost City of Z (2017)

Just stay home. Much safer.

At the dawn of the 20th century, British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) is an extremely talented and well-known soldier who, by the word of some fellow Britishmen, state that he was “unfortunate in the choice of ancestors”. Whatever that means, doesn’t spell out anything good for Percy who, for some reason, always feels like his life is leading towards something wonderful, but what that is, he hasn’t quite faced or figured out yet. So, when the opportunity to journey into the Amazon, where he is assigned to figure out the border between Brazil and Bolivia. It’s not something he planned on wanting to do, but he takes the opportunity and realizes that there’s truly something more to this land than he anticipated. On his journey back home, he lets everyone know about the evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. However, all those around him shrug him off as a loon and now Percy, along with his wife (Sienna Miller), son (Tom Holland), and fellow journeyman (Robert Pattinson), set out to prove them, as well as the entire world, wrong. It’s the decision that would change his life for good.

All that dirt, yet, still so handsome?

The Lost City of Z is a hard movie to really talk about because my feelings are still kind of mixed. For one, it’s a very well put-together movie; big, bold, beautiful, and sometimes enchanting, it has the look and feel of one of those action and adventure flicks from the 60’s-to-70’s, where the jungle had all sorts of dangerous mysteries for man to discover, and even more possibilities for the men to discover about themselves, too. It’s the kind of movie you sort of just sit back, watch and admire, because there’s so much art and craft put into the way the thing looks, sounds, hell, even the way it’s paced.

And of course, all of the praise deserves to go to James Gray who, after making so many small indie flicks, now seems to be making a giant leap towards bigger-budget fare, although, while still containing the kind of artistry we expect from him. We can tell why he took on this infamous story and better yet, you can tell he really cares; it’s not as if it was some hack studio job he did solely for the sake of money. There’s some real feeling and heart to his storytelling, that feels genuine.

That’s why it’s still hard for me to have problems with this movie, even though I definitely do.

See, it seems the biggest issue with the Lost City of Z is that, even despite it being nearly 140 minutes, it still feels underdeveloped and under-cooked. It’s almost as if it could have been a TV pilot about halfway through, where we get an understanding for the characters, the relationships, and the central conflict, and the rest of the movie could have been further explained and given more time to develop over the next 12 or so episodes. However, there’s just so much going on here, with so little explanation, or time taken to put on it, it honestly feels like a rushed job, as if Gray himself felt like he had to hit all the points to make sure he got what he wanted and didn’t leave anything out.

No problem with that if you’re adapting a non-fiction book, but it’s a problem when it doesn’t feel like all we are watching, are events and simply just that. 12 Years a Slave did the same thing where it felt like one thing happening, after another, but that was more meaningful and understood, as that’s probably how it would have been for a slave; a tale as tall and as wide as the Lost City of Z, deserves more momentum building within itself and it just never gets that. Gray tries and tries again, but honestly, there’s just so much on his plate here from Fawcett’s first trip, to his second, to WWI, to his kids being born, to his discovery of the possible “savages” and realizing that they aren’t “savages”, and etc., that it’s just so much, with so little background.

Watch out, Twi-hards.

It’s a PowerPoint presentation, but without any facts or other bullet-points, it’s just the titles and that’s about it.

Then again, it’s still a hard movie to take your eyes off of, no matter how slow or meandering it can get. It also helps that the cast is pretty solid, too, albeit, save for Charlie Hunnam, which I find myself having a hard time to type, because I do truly feel like he’s a good actor. However, with Sons of Anarchy and a few of his latest film-roles since he started work on that show, I’m not quite sure what it is about him that’s not quite connecting with me. He was great when he was younger, in much more comedy-based stuff like Queer as Folk, Undeclared, and even Nicholas Nickleby, but I don’t know, for some reason, there’s just no real conviction to him here, as there may have been in the old days. He tries, but yeah, it just didn’t connect.

Thankfully, it left room for others to work well, like especially, Sienna Miller in one of her best roles yet, as Percy’s wife, Nina, who is so much more than just a stay-at-home, put-upon wife. She’s smart, brave and actually wanting to travel and discover this world with Percy, and the scenes she has with him, honestly, feel as real and as raw as anything else. Robert Pattinson is also quite good because he basically downplays his role and does the best Keith Richards impression ever, whereas Tom Holland is good as the son who rightfully despises his father for leaving him and his family for all those years, away in the sunny-side of England, but for some reason, instantly forgives him and is on the next trip with him.

Yeah, needed more clarification. Or better yet, a longer running-time altogether.

Consensus: Even with the pure ambition put on by James Gray, the Lost City of Z still feels like an under-cooked tale that has so much going on, but without much behind all of the big events.

6 / 10

Dirty, but once again, still so handsome. How do they do it?!?!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Can automobiles be family?

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been living the good life since the events of the last film. He’s practically on vacation and thinking about starting up a family with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But somehow, he turns to the dark side after an evil, somewhat vicious criminal mastermind named Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up and demands him to do all sorts of crimes for him. Obviously, it isn’t just Letty who feels betrayed, but also Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Ludacris), and the rest of the gang. So, in order to stop Dominic from going any further into the dark, seedy world of crime and murder, they team back up with the government and try to stop him all at once. But this time, they’re going to get a little assistance from someone they haven’t been too fond of in the past: Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the man who hasn’t yet forgiven the family for what they had done to his own brother, but is willing to let bygones be bygones for the time being, just so that he can take down Cipher.

Uh oh. There must be a jabroni somewhere close by.

The last three Fast and Furious movies have been some of the best action movies in the past decade or so. They’ve upped the ante by becoming more and more ridiculous by the installment, while also never forgetting that what makes them so much in the first place is that they don’t ever try too hard to take themselves too seriously – the last movie definitely verged on getting way too dramatic for its own sake, but that was only because it was put in an awkward position of having to pay tribute to its star, Paul Walker. And from what it seems, the franchise will only continue to get more and more successful, the more and more insane it pushes itself to be.

Which is why the latest, Fate of the Furious, is a bit of a mixed-bag.

Don’t get me wrong, the action, the ridiculousness, and the sheer stupidity of it all is still here and in full-form, but at the same time, there’s something else keeping it away from being quite on-par with the past three installments and that all comes down to story. For one, no one goes to these movies for their well thought-out, interesting, and complex plots – they come for the action, the silliness, and most of all, the cars. People don’t care about who’s betraying who, for what reasons, and what sort of lessons can be learned from it all.

Of course, this being a Fast and Furious, it makes sense that we get a lot of lectures and discussions about family and what it means to stand by one another, but that’s to be expected and that’s not he problem. The real problem is that the movie takes way too long to get going, and when it does, it constantly starts and stops without ever knowing why. At nearly two-hours-and-16-minutes, Fate may be the longest installment so far (although, it could have been over two-and-a-half-hours, as previously reported), and at times, it feels like that; there’s so much downtime spent on plot and poorly-written sketches of characters, that it’s almost unnecessary. Having something resembling a plot is fine, because it’s what the past three have done, but Fate takes it up a notch in that it tries hard to give us a plot that’s harder to pin-down and far more detailed.

What a power-couple. Make it happen, real life.

But it didn’t have to be. We know it’s stupid and all filler, and so do they. So why are we getting all of this?

A good portion of that probably has to due to the fact that in lead-villain role, Charlize Theron gets to have a little bit of fun as Cipher, even if her character is so odd and random at times, it almost feels like anyone could have taken on the role. She’s your stereotypical villain in that she does bad stuff, for no exact reason, other than she’s a bad lady and can’t messed with. Once again, I’m not expecting anything more in a Fast and Furious movie, but the movie spends so much time on her, as she plays these silly mind games with Dominic and the gang, that it’s almost like director F. Gary Gray and writer Chris Morgan themselves don’t even know the material they’re playing with.

Same goes for the rest of the ensemble who are, as expected, just a bunch of punchlines and a few paragraphs of things resembling characters. But hey, it’s fine, because they all work well with the goofy material and make us realize that it doesn’t matter. Is it odd watching without Paul Walker? Most definitely, but the gang more than makes up for the absence, by doubling down on the charm and excitement, with even Statham himself proving to be having the biggest ball of everyone.

Oh and yeah, the action’s still pretty great, when it happens.

Everything before and in between, honestly, is a bit boring, because it’s all a build-up, but when it does actually get there, it’s still wild, insane, and highly unrealistic, but who cares? Almost all action movies, in some way, shape, or form, take place in some fake, mythological world where real-life issues and consequences don’t matter, and nor should they. These are the Fast and Furious movies, not Shakespeare.

I just wish somebody told everyone else that.

Consensus: A little long and slow, Fate of the Furious still gets by on its crazy, hectic action, as well as its talented ensemble who prove to be perfectly equipped with this goofy material, no matter how far-fetched it all gets.

6.5 / 10

News team, assemble!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Going in Style (2017)

Get some life into ya.

Lifelong buddies Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine) and Albert (Alan Arkin) all decide that it’s finally time to take some time back and retire, once and for all. However, once they do that, they don’t know what sorts of annoyances await them. For one, the factory that they slaved away for all of those years, aren’t going to be giving them pensions. And if that wasn’t so bad, they’re so broke that they may not be able to keep their own roofs over their heads. It’s so bad that even a piece of pie at a diner is a constant cause for argument. But then, Joe gets the idea: Why not rob a bank? Better yet, why not rob the bank that is, get this, robbing him blind in the first place? It’s a crazy idea and one met with disdain from the two other guys, but as time goes on, they start to come around to the idea. Eventually, the three hatch out a plan for what to do, but considering that they’re three old dudes, it may be a lot harder than it seems.

Do they qualify for the license to carry? Let alone, see?

Going in Style is probably an unnecessary remake, but it’s also different from the 1979 version. While that movie was a mostly dramatic, melancholy look at aging, life, and death, with some comedy splashed in there for good measure, the remake is a lot more fun, humorous, and less about being too dramatic. In a way, it’s as director Zach Braff and the studios thought that having a movie in which a bunch of old dudes try to re-ignite sparks in their lives, only to realize that they haven’t got much time left on Earth, was all too serious and real, so therefore, they added a bunch of jokes about prostates, pie, Alzheimer’s, and oh yes, the Bachelor.

Did I mention that this is Zach Braff we’re talking about here? Sure, I Wish I Was Here was a problem, but surely the same guy who made the near-classic over a decade ago (in Garden State), doesn’t feel the need for these sorts of paycheck gigs, does he? Well, in a way, it sort of seems like it, but it’s not like the movie’s the most manipulative piece of money-making machine ever made.

If anything, it’s just enjoyable and pleasing enough to literally not offend a single person.

Is that we should expect from these actors, as well as Braff? Hopefully not.

But for now, it’s fine, because Going in Style proves that the age old formula of “old dudes getting to have some fun one more time”, still kind of works. The only difference here is that the tone is a lot lighter and playful than you’d expect, which makes all of the crazy plot contrivances, twists, and turns, seem fine. Are they unbelievable and absolutely ridiculous? Absolutely, but for the longest time, the movie doesn’t do much but go about its day, with a smile on its face, and a pleasant mood on its mind.

Ride or die, boys.

And for that, it’s fine. It doesn’t ask for the heavy questions, with the heavier answers, about life, death, love, or immortality, or any of that fun stuff, nor does it really ask you to fully get too invested in its heist at the center of the film; it’s all being used to just get by and allow us to have some fun with these characters, in this place in time.

And once again, that’s fine.

It helps that Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, no matter how old they get, still seem like total pros and can do practically no wrong. Sure, a lot of the stuff that they’re saying and yammering on about isn’t all that funny, but the three are so charming and lovely, does it really matter? Yes, it sort of does, but in this case, not really; it’s annoying to constantly see older actors get the short-shift in which they have to play these old dudes and that’s about it, but if that’s the way the world works, then so be it. It seems like Caine, Freeman, and Arkin themselves are so fine with it that it doesn’t really matter.

So long as they keep on doing what they’re doing, until the expected end of their careers, well then, no argument from me.

Keep doing what you’re doing, fellas.

Consensus: Pleasing and enjoyable enough, mostly by the talented trio of leads, Going in Style doesn’t set out to offend anyone, or change anyone’s life, and in this case, that’s all that is needed.

6 / 10

[Insert boner joke here]

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Johnny Handsome (1989)

It kills to look so good.

Due to a disfigured face, John (Mickey Rourke) has spent most of his life either being ridiculed, or never understood. The only thing that he really knows to do in life is set up heists and have them to according to plan. And for his latest one, everything works out perfectly, with all of the money being taken, and very little casualties, until, well, he gets double-crossed and left to be arrested by the cops. John is soon taken into custody where a doctor who specializes in facial-reconstruction surgery (Forest Whitaker) wants to test something out on John and see, if at all possible, he can get him to look like a normal person. It works, but of course, John himself has a lot to get used to, with people not staring at him any longer. And then, sooner than later, John’s out of jail, back on the streets, and ready to be an everyday, law abiding citizen. But before he does any of that, he wants to get revenge on the two criminals, Sunny Boyd (Ellen Barkin) and Rafe Garrett (Lance Henriksen), who screwed him over in the first place.

Eric Stoltz?

Johnny Handsome is an odd movie because, as is the case with most of Hill’s movies, it seems like it wants to be two different one simultaneously. There’s one aspect that wants to be this goofy, high-concept heist-thriller with guns, action, violence, drugs, booze, and cursing, but then there’s this other, that wants to be a thoughtful, quiet and small character-study about this guy Johnny and how he learns to get along with life after finding a new lease on it. By no means has Hill ever been considered the most perfect director for heart-warming tales of humanity, so obviously, the later story doesn’t quite work out for him.

But at least the former does.

And yes, that’s exactly where Johnny Handsome works, in the grit and the action of the tale. As is usually the case, Hill knows how to craft a solid action-sequence, whether it’s a heist scene, or a brawl between two characters, and it just goes to show you what the guy can do, when the material is there for him to play around with. Sure, has he had better action movies on his plate than this one here? Sure, but it also helps that Hill gets a chance to revel in the sleeze that this tale sometimes promises getting to the nitty gritty of. Of course, it doesn’t quite go as far as it should with that, but it gets close enough to make it feel like a worthwhile effort, on the part of Hill’s.

It’s just that, once again, the movie also wants to be something of a stern, serious character-study that, at the center, does have something interesting to say about Johnny himself. But of course, it’s trapped in this wild and rather wacky B-movie that knows what it is, when it’s doing its thing, but when it’s getting away from that, it feels weird. It’s as if Hill knew that there was some true dramatic promise with this premise and did want to develop it a tad bit more, but also didn’t want to scare too many others away from how melodramatic he was able and willing to get.

It’s an odd mix-and-match Hill has to work with here and honestly, in the hands of a much better director, it probably would have worked. Not to say that Hill isn’t a good director, but you can tell his specialties do heavily lie on action, not drama.

I’d hang with them. Maybe not rob a bank, but definitely hang.

But hey, at least the cast is pretty great.

Mickey Rourke, in what would probably be one of the last performances for awhile where he actually seemed to give a crap, does a solid job as Johnny, even though, like I’ve said before, he may be in a tad bit of a different movie. He’s doing his usual cool, calm and collected brooding thing we’ve seen from him before, which may seem a tad dull, but makes sense in the general sense of the story and just who this character is. It would have been nice to see him play this character in a less messier movie, but hey, at least Rourke’s good here.

The real fun from the cast comes from the supporting side. Lance Henriksen is evil and detestable as one of the baddies who rip-off Johnny; Morgan Freeman plays a cop who is on Johnny’s ass from the get-go and seems to push him way too far at times; Elizabeth McGovern is very much playing it serious like Rourke, but is interesting enough to watch; Forest Whitaker plays his doctor character a little creepy, which works; and Ellen Barkin, well, steals the show as Sunny Boyd. As Boyd, Barkin gets to let loose, showing that she can be beautiful, sexy, and a little bit dangerous, never allowing you to fully trust her, but also kind of love her, too. She clearly came ready to play and it’s why her performance is the one worth remembering when all is said and done.

Consensus: Even despite the mess it eventually becomes, Johnny Handsome still gets by on its thrills and excitement given by its talented ensemble.

6 / 10

Oh, there’s the Mickey we all know, love and recognize. Basically, right before he started boxing, for some reason.

Photos Courtesy of: The Film Connoisseur

Going in Style (1979)

Every person needs that one last score.

Senior citizens Willie (Lee Strasberg), Al (Art Carney) and Joe (George Burns) all lead relatively boring, mundane lives. Sure, while they’re fine with it, they also know that life has passed them by and, for the most part, they’re just waiting for the day until they pass. It’s a little sad, but hey, they make the best of it. Their lives all change once one of them gets the idea of robbing a bank together, getting stinking, filthy rich and of course, living out the rest of their days in total, absolute luxury. The only issue is that they have to go through with the heist itself, which may be hard for a bunch 70-year-old-men, neither of whom have a criminal record. But still, there’s a certain fun bit of excitement they all feel while planning this heist that makes them feel years younger again and reinvigorates their lives, and everything else around them. But then they pull off the heist, and well, things don’t go as perfectly as planned.

Or perhaps they did.

“1979 already? Sheesh!”

Going in Style, believe it or not, doesn’t have much style, much drive, or even all that much originality to it that makes it the kind of movie worth watching immediately. It’s a perfectly serviceable and fine piece of comedy-drama that, if anything, gets by solely for the fact that it features some of the best comedy-presences to ever grace a screen, together, in their later years, and yes, just having some fun. For most, it may be a bummer that it’s not funnier, or even as exciting as you’d think, but it’s still a movie that features George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, sitting in a room, talking and being, unsurprisingly, funny.

For that, Going in Style works and it doesn’t have to try too hard to work with that.

Burns is, as usual, sweet and sometimes mean; Carney’s the loudest, most obnoxious one of the bunch, but always seems like he has the biggest heart; and Strasberg is the more softer-spoken of the three, but definitely gets the most emotional movie in the whole scene. Altogether, they’re quite the package; there’s something joyous and absolutely lovely about watching a bunch of old-timers, who know exactly what they’re doing, do it together and act as if they’ve never missed a step. On some occasions, you’ll never know what’s actually scripted, or what they guys are making up as they go along – no matter what, though, they’re having fun working together and as a result, we do, too. It would be hard not to, but trust me, there are movies out there that have wasted a huge group of talented folks, and not given them a single thing to work with that would warrant their talents in the first place.

Think any Adam Sandler movie, for instance.

But regardless, Going in Style does work for the fact that it’s also a tale about aging, growing old, and trying to relive your glory days, when it seems like the rest of the world is there just to tuck you away and forget about you. Director Martin Brest gets some nice moments out of these guys who show us that there’s beyond the old, cranky facades that they often present, and instead, shows us three dudes who just want to bring some life into their later years, any way that they can. If it just so happens to be a robbery, then so be it.

No one will ever look for/find a guy who looks like George Burns, looking like Groucho Marx.

The only issue that the movie runs into is that it is quite uneven and for a movie that’s just a little bit over 90 minutes, it can often feel longer. Why? Well, it’s because the momentum is constantly changing itself, making you believe that it’s going to go down a faster, more exciting route, only to then slow things up and focus more on the melancholy of the plot. Maybe this was intended to work more along with our protagonists, but it could often be frustrating, considering that the heist scene, as well as a gambling scene later on, are both shot well and add a bunch of fun to a movie that can be pretty depressing.

Still, it is a movie about old people, getting older, and realizing that their lives are in fact passing them by and that they can’t do anything else about it, except accept it, move on, and try to make the most of it. So yeah, maybe it’s not the most joyous flick out there, but it’s still one that’s sweet enough, but maybe a little too sad for its own sake? I’m still not sure.

Oh well.

Yeah, just don’t listen to me.

Consensus: With three great talents in the lead roles, Going in Style works both as a comedy, as well as a sweet look at aging, but also can feel uneven.

6.5 / 10

Life is grand, so live it up fellas. For as long as is necessary.

Photos Courtesy of: Three Movie BuffsThe Spinning ImageIMDb

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017)

School sucks. So just go home.

It’s February, which means that it’s cold, snowy, and absolutely miserable outside. The best option for mostly everyone is to stay indoors, keep warm, and just hope that the snow doesn’t come down too much for shoveling the next day. During this deadly cold time, a troubled young woman named Joan (Emma Roberts) for some reason, gets picked up by an older couple (Lauren Holly and James Remar), who take a liking to Joan and need her for something. Joan doesn’t really know what, but she’s happy to be out of the cold for once and appreciates all of the hospitality. Meanwhile, at an isolated prep school, there’s Rose (Lucy Boynton) who has a bit of an issue of her own, and doesn’t know how quite to deal with it, whereas her fellow student Kat (Kiernan Shipka), also is dealing with something going on with her, too. The two students are basically trapped in this school over this winter-break, without barely anyone to talk to or hang with, except for each other, which makes all of the strange happenings around the campus all the more weirder and scary. Somehow, these three stories are connected, but neither knows just yet.

Mad Men‘s over. I know. Shocking.

Oz Perkins clearly likes to take his stories slow. As he did with I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House, Perkins showed that he has a love for taking his time, keeping his camera still, and constantly building and building on atmosphere, as opposed to just throwing all caution to the wind and letting loose. In a way, there’s no problem with that – as long as you’re building on something interesting and compelling, then really, there’s no problem.

And for awhile, it seems like that’s what the Blackcoat’s Daughter (or as it used to be known as, February), is rolling with.

For the most part, Perkins helps his case out by giving us three interesting stories of three relatively different women, without fully divulging into each and everything we need to know about them. They’re dark, quiet, and a little mysterious, which makes them watchable and for us, the audience, curious of where the story may take them; Perkins doesn’t really show too many instances of horror in the first half-hour of this movie, but instead, just building small, ever so brief moments of character and mood that gradually, over time, come together and help the movie out.

And sure, it does aid these characters that the three gals playing them, Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, and Lucy Boynton, are all commanding presences. Roberts seems like she’s got something deeper and darker going on with her; Shipka just seems creepy altogether; and Boynton, while clearly getting the most to work with out of the three, seems like she could have really worked in something that was perhaps more dramatic, and less sinister. But still, all three here are good and keep us watching, even when we’re not quite sure just where everything is going.

Cause when it does get to where it needs to, Blackcoat’s Daughter doesn’t totally disappoint, but it does feel odd.

Cheer up, Scream Queen. (TV references are all that I’ve got)

In a way, a lot of crazy, bad, ugly, and scary stuff happens in the final-act, but there feels like there’s more behind it and we just never get to see it. It’s as if Perkins himself had the material in mind to help us make better sense of all the scary stuff that’s happening, but either didn’t have the time, or budget, to really develop it more. You can sort of tell this is a problem, too, with certain scenes getting really gory and graphic, but other ones, hinting at something more underneath, and we just never get to see that.

The horror itself is still effective, but when it feels like there’s something missing behind allowing it to hit even harder, it’s a bit of a problem. Most horror movies suffer with this, mostly because it seems like they just don’t have any ideas in the first place, but just scares, but it seems like Perkins himself is a step above that. Perhaps, he’s got a few too many ideas to really connect-the-dots between them and his scares, because there’s just something missing here.

One of these days I’ll figure it out. Hopefully.

Consensus: Effective in building on its atmosphere and chills, the Blackcoat’s Daughter shows Perkins is able to conjure up horror, even if he doesn’t have all the nuts and bolts down.

6 / 10

“Yeah, this vacation blows already.”

Photos Courtesy of: Gruesome Magazine