Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Bruce Davison

At First Sight (1999)

Eyes open or closed, we all know Mira Sorvino is downright beautiful.

Young architect Amy Benic (Mira Sorvino) needs a break from the busy high-life of Manhattan and decides to go out to the country-side, relax, and get her massage on. While she’s getting that on, she falls under the spell and hands of the masseur Virgil Adamson (Val Kilmer). She instantly clicks with him and realizes that there’s something between the two that’s as rare as it can be. Rare, because Virgil’s also blind and has no idea what she looks like, or anything else for that matter.

Watching all of these sappy, romantic-dramedies can honestly do a number on a person. Nicholas Sparks has dulled the senses so much, that even when something relatively sweet, sort of nice comes around, it’s hard to fully embrace it. For someone like me, I’m just so used to saccharine, annoying romantic-junk that yeah, it makes you forget about actual solid romantic-flicks out there in the world.

Sort of like At First Sight. But also, sort of not like At First Sight.

Let me explain.

Well, close enough.

Well, close enough.

Granted, it’s nothing special, but it works at being a piece of romantic-drama that you can root-root-root for the couple, and just hope that they end up together because you can see that they’re good people, have the best intentions for one another, and most of all, love each other like silly. Isn’t that what we all want to be reminded of when we watch sap-fests such as these? Well yes, as well as the ability to love and be loved is still out there and if you have a heart big enough to allow that into your soul, that even you can come under it’s spell? I think so, and I think that’s why I actually didn’t mind this movie as much as I was planning to.

Val Kilmer is a nice fit as our blind man for the two hours (way, way, way too long for my liking!), Virgil Adamson. Despite how he may be behind the scenes, Kilmer has always had a certain cool, suave charm about him, which is what works well for this character here, who could have easily just been a later-day saint who also happened to be blind. It’s also a nice refresher to see him play a much softer, more romantic-side, even though the movie surrounding him is, yes, corny and undeniably syrupy beyond belief.

But like I said, the guy’s so charming, he makes it work.

Daredevil totally ripped this movie off!

Daredevil totally ripped this movie off! Damn Ben Affleck!

Playing his love bird for the two hours (once again, way, way, way too long for my liking!), is Mira Sorvino as Amy. Sorvino is always a charmer and is as cute-as-a-button that whenever she smiles, it’s so easy to just feel all warm and gooey inside. She’s got that beautiful look to her that works to her advantage and it’s just great to see that in an actress that can make bad material like this work, even if we do see it coming a hundred-upon-a-hundred miles away. You actually believe that she could fall in love with a guy like this, knock down all of the problems of being blind, and just look at the person instead. It’s obvious stuff, but Sorvino and Kilmer make it work together and if it weren’t for these two in the roles, it’d be really hard to get through this thing.

Then, there’s Kelly McGillis who eventually shows up as Vrigil’s sister that is always there for him and watching over him and is okay, but also where the movie really starts to go off-the-rails. The first hour, while cheesy, is sweet, soft and enjoyable enough to where it’s a nice piece of time passing-by, because it’s never taking itself all that seriously. But then, miraculously, as soon as McGillis rears her head in, everything gets a bit bonkers and far too serious. It certainly doesn’t help the fact that she’s always yelling, upset, and crying about something going on. Thankfully, Nathan Lane is here to save the day and as usual, use his comedic-charm to his ability and have us love the guy like never before.

So when in doubt, just trust Nathan Lane.

Consensus: Is it predictable? Yes. Is it obvious? Yes. Is it long? Hell yes! Is it at least entertaining? Ehh, sure. At First Sight may not throw you any curve balls you won’t see coming at you miles away, but Kilmer and Sorvino at least make the material seem more than just your average, run-of-the-mill romantic-drama, even if that’s exactly what it is.

5 / 10

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you not supposed to pet those dogs or something?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you not supposed to pet those kinds of dogs or something?

Photos Courtesy of: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer


Apt Pupil (1998)

Pupil1The old German dude who lives alone next door? Yeah. Probably a Nazi.

16-year-old high school senior Todd (Brad Renfro) has a lot going on in his life. His parents bother him a whole lot, what with their rich ways, his friends all want him to go out, party, drink, and do sexual things, and his grades have to be constantly on the up-and-up, or else he’ll lose his scholarships. But for some odd reason, Todd has an obsession with Nazis, which is why when he finds out that a former Nazi death-camp officer lives around him, he can’t help but talk to the guy. While the former officer, Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellen), initially doesn’t want to be bothered with this boy’s childish claims, eventually, he gets blackmailed into doing everything that Todd asks. At first, Todd just wants to hear disturbing, overly graphic stories about the concentration camps, but after awhile, it starts to turn more severe. Todd wants him to start doing more and more evil things, which eventually leads Dussander to teaching little Todd a few things about his own heart and soul that may be a little darker than the kid is able to admit to and accept.

Just your friendly neighborhood Nazi!

Just your friendly neighborhood Nazi!

Honestly, a part of me is still shocked that this movie ever got made, or for that matter, got the budget that it did. Although I’m just speculating, I imagine that studios felt as if Bryan Singer have given them a big enough hit with the Usual Suspects, that, regardless of the controversial subject material, they were willing to shell out some money for Singer to work and play around with. Sure, this movie could definitely be made today, but given the budget, the stars in it and the wide release, it’s a surprise that we got to see Apt Pupil in 1998, if at all before Y2K.

That said, being risky and downright ballsy doesn’t always make your movie “good”.

What Singer does and does well, is that he doesn’t shy away from the bleakness of this material. If having a 16-year-old blackmail an aging, nearly 80-year-old former Nazi officer, wasn’t off-putting enough, the movie then delves into each one of their psyche’s and own issues with life, love and morality, without pulling back. Meaning, yes, cats are thrown in ovens, injured birds are killed, school advisers are threatened, and homeless people are murdered.

So yeah, it gets pretty dark, pretty quick and I’ve got to give Singer a lot of respect for not shying away. He could have easily backed down and away from the dark and heavy subject material when producers started breathing down his neck, but nope, Singer pulls through. He allows for these characters to show their true, darker sides, without ever making either one out to be considered “heroes”, or “sympathetic”.

And yes, with that said, the cast is pretty solid, too.

Even though we’re going on eight years since we lost him, it’s still tragic that Brad Renfro isn’t around anymore. As the young and brash Todd, Renfro plays both sides of this character very well; while he’s still got plenty of power and control over this older man, he’s still a naive, sometimes idiotic kid who doesn’t always control his emotions, nor know how to think things through perfectly. Despite the premise seeming a bit silly, Renfro’s portrayal of Todd makes you believe that a kid like this would actually go through all of the appropriate steps to ensure that he’s got a strong hold over this guy.

But what’s interesting about Todd the most, is that when the tides change for the characters, Todd himself continues to become more and more of a child. This is when Ian McKellen’s portrayal of Kurt Dussander really comes into play and works so perfectly – not just for this character, but for this movie. While he’s most definitely an evil and despicable human being, for some reason, it’s kind of hard not to sympathize with the guy. Sure, he used to kill thousands and thousands of Jews, ran away and hid from war crimes he would have definitely been convicted of, but the fact that he’s being terrorized by this darn kid, all of these years later, against his will and without a leg to stand on, is kind of sad. McKellen is great at playing these kind of snarly, slightly mean tragic figures and here, he really gets a chance to shine and show people why he was the perfect choice to play Magneto.

That's the look of some kid who needed military school at a very early age.

The look of a kid who needed military school at a very early age.

Not that we needed much convincing in the first place.

But regardless, one of the biggest problems with Apt Pupil is that it doesn’t really do anything with these dark characters or themes. What Singer does do is show us just how far and willing these two characters are able to go to the deepest, darkest pits of hell, just to keep themselves safe, but that doesn’t really translate to being suspenseful, or tense. After awhile, it just seems like there’s a bunch of slightly detestable characters, doing things to save their asses, but there’s not much to them other than that.

If Singer wanted to make this a brooding and small character study, it probably would have worked; he wouldn’t have had to make this like a thriller, where there’s supposed to be a conflict and story to hold everything together. But considering that the movie is very much a thriller, it doesn’t quite work. The characters don’t have many other lights to them than just what’s presented on the surface and there’s nothing really compelling to just sitting by and watching them poke around and prod with other people, as well as themselves.

Still, it doesn’t matter. Singer got the X-Men job and the world would never be the same again. So yeah, there’s at least some good to come out of this.

Consensus: Singer does the dark characters right in Apt Pupil, however, the plot doesn’t always come together to make a fully compelling flick.

5.5 / 10

"Respect yo Nazi elders, boy!"

“Respect yo Nazi elders, boy!”

Photos Courtesy of: Movie Boozer, Greg King’s Film Reviews, Afixionado


Dahmer (2002)

Another reason why you never put your drinks down, or go home with creepy dudes.

Jeremy Renner plays Jeffrey Dahmer, who was also known as one of the most notorious serial killers of all-time. He killed over 17 men and boys, after he usually manipulated them into sex, drugs, and drinking, but also was able to get away with it for a pretty long time. Here’s a glimpse into his life, or at least his later-life that some may or may not find all that settling.

No matter who you, chances are that you have heard of Jeffrey Dahmer. Yeah, that dude was very messed up and going into this movie, that’s exactly what I was expecting. Sadly, I just got a really good glimpse of how freakin’ creepy Renner can be. You know, when he isn’t around, defusing bombs and such.

David Jacobson hasn’t done much since this movie hit the indie-theaters, which is a shame because the guy gives us a nice glimpse into the life of a guy that I’m sure none of really wanted to see for ourselves anyway, but yet, couldn’t keep away from neither. Why that is that we always want to see more and more about these sick, sadistic killers lives is beyond me. But then again, I’m the one who’s wondering and I’m also the one who not only watched the movie, but is reviewing it as well. So, screw me, I guess. Anyway, back to the review I just mentioned.

Jacobson does a pretty good job at keeping his direction very low-key, and never going anywhere near to over-exposing his subject. This isn’t your normal type of slasher movie where we see people constantly being hacked up into little pieces and then the killer eating them with ketchup on top, it’s more subdued in the way it tells the story, as if it most likely happened. I liked that approach and I like Jacobson’s very low-budget look that made it seem like this could be happening in any place, town, or city. There could even be people like this, who live right next door to you without you ever knowing. It was a nice way to touch on a subject like this and that’s honestly what I thought I was going to get, but that’s the exact problem with this flick: it never goes that extra mile.

How could you say "no" to a charmer like that?

How could you say “no I will not let you drug and rape me” to face like that?

When I say “extra mile”, I mean that this flick could have easily gone into extra depth about this infamous figure and showed us what really made him tick, but it never does. It does show us things that happened in his past that irked him and kind of set him to madness, but we never get inside of his head or see things the way he sees them. We get a couple of clear-cut examples as to when and how he went totally ballistic, but never anything to where I could say “oh, I see why he does this as a chore/hobby of his.” Now, I’m not saying that there should be or ever is any excuse to murder people, let alone 17 boys and adults, and there wasn’t any here at all, it just needed to give me something that I could hold onto when I was watching a person like Dahmer up on-screen. Jacobson seems to get the story, but not the subject if you know what I mean.

But other than not doing much with its subject, the film also suffers from being somewhat, dare I say it: boring. A couple of murders happen here and there, and we get a pretty crazy montage of Dahmer doing his dirty stuff with his boys in a midnight gay club, but other than that, nothing else really all that exciting happens. The movie just sort of meanders around from to scene to scene without any real genuine suspense or thrill behind it. Instead, we’re just sort of watching a guy be weird and plan to do some even weirder things. I didn’t go into this expecting a slasher along the lines of Halloween or Scream, but I just wanted something more to keep me glued. I guess I’m just a little brat because I have probably mentioned the word “more” about 10 times already in this review. Actually, if you have seen this movie, there’s something for memorable about that word “more” that comes into play in this movie. I don’t want to give it away but if you watch the movie, then you’ll understand. Until then, stay in the mysterious dark of not knowing.

"First, we smoke. Then, you die. Cool?"

“First, we smoke. Then, you die. Cool?”

This whole review that I’ve done so far may make it seem like I didn’t like this movie, but I actually didn’t mind it. That’s mostly thanks to the one guy who saved it all for me and really kept me going for this whole movie: Jeremy Renner as Jeffrey Dahmer. Renner has been a guy on my watch for the longest time and I definitely think he’s going to be the next best thing for Hollywood when the time comes around. However, it’s these roles in lesser-known movies that he does is what really gets my hopes up for him higher than ever before. Renner is absolutely amazing as Dahmer, because he plays it subtle, without over-reaching his grasps into how psychotic he can make this guy seem to be. He just is, plain and simple. Just looking at this guy from afar, would have you guessing right away that he’s crazy as shit, which he is but Renner gives him this very charming act that works not only the people in this movie, but us, the audience as well. He seems like you average, every day dude that just so happens to be one of the craziest mothaeffa’s around and Renner plays that to the brim, showing barely any emotions the whole time, but still being able to release a cold chill about him that settles in throughout the whole movie, even when it seems like everything is calm and collective. It isn’t, and just by watching Renner’s performance, you can tell that this guy has got presence whether or not he’s saying or even doing anything. He just needs to be there, on-the-screen, to really keep your pulse beating. Great performance from Renner and it’s honestly a role that should have gotten him way bigger, way back when. Thankfully, he’s on the top of the food-chain now, and it doesn’t seem like he’s coming down. Thank the movie heavens for that.

Consensus: Dahmer is one of those movies that makes you feel like it’s really going to get deep down inside the mind of a serial-killer, especially one as notorious as Jeffrey Dahmer, but it never hits that peak. It just sits there, acts a little weird, and lets Jeremy Renner take over the show. It’s not as bad to watch because Renner is so good, but there could have been more than just a weird guy, who did bad things.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

He knows the drill.

Weaken the body, kill the person, get rid of the evidence. He knows the drill….

The Lords of Salem (2013)

If you live in Salem, most likely weird shit will begin to happen.

Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a vulnerable radio DJ that spends her time working, keeping busy, and staying off the sauce. Everything is fine for her until she receives some weird recording from this band called “The Lords”, and begins to feel nauseous and strange every time she hears it. So does a local historian (Bruce Davidson), who not only tries to find Heidi and tell her of the danger that may await her, but also try to figure out just who these “Lords” really are. He lives in Salem, where this is all happening, so it might just have something to do with the past? Oh no!

Rob Zombie is a weird dude, but he does seem to love the horror genre. In a day and age where almost everybody seems to be giving up on it, there’s Zombie right there, to breath some everlasting love and light into it, even if it doesn’t always work for the dude. However, after he finally ditched the whole Halloween re-boot series (thank the high heavens), it seems like the guy has a chance to make a movie that comes from his mind, his soul, and his fingertips. That’s sort of the big problem there.

It isn’t that Zombie’s ambitions aren’t worth recommending, it’s just that they don’t work. Rather than chasing down a story where a bunch of people kill, sweat, and do dirty shit, all to the tuneage of Southern-rock, Zombie keeps his pace slow and melodic in a way, giving us a chance to focus more on characters, rather than the nutty stuff that’s about to happen to them. That’s why the first 30 minutes of this flick really worked for me; it was all character-development. Granted, it wasn’t anything memorable or special that I haven’t seen done a hundred times before in movies (especially horror ones), but it showed that Zombie could chill out when he felt the need be and could actually tell a story without diving into overly-dramatic theatrics.

Oh no, it totally makes sense....

Oh no, it totally makes sense….

Even when Zombie does dive into these said “overly-dramatic theatrics”, they surprisingly do work and feel freaky. Not scary, but freaky in the way that the inner-Catholic in me was a bit shocked by how purely-evil a movie could be and act. Not sure if Zombie actually does worship the devil in his spare-time, but if so: I wouldn’t be all that surprised with all of the devil-loving in this movie. Like I said about the first 30 minutes up top, not only does the character-development work, but so does the freaky stuff. After this though, things get a bit shaky. Actually, who am I kidding!?! They get really, freakin’ shaky.

One of Zombie’s biggest problems is that he does well when he wants to be funny, he just doesn’t transition well into full-out horror. Instead, most of the creepy shit like a baby being licked by witches, evil dead babies doing stuff (I honestly have no idea what the hell they were doing), and witches chanting and praising in the name of Satan, don’t really seem scary, as much as they just seem goofy. It seemed like Zombie was trying to harken back to the good old days of horror, by throwing in elements of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, but instead, got something that reminded me of Eyes Wide Shut. Not exactly the type of movie I like to be thinking about when I putting up my “Top 10 for Horror Movies”, but that’s where this movie seems to go towards and it’s a wonder just what the image of where this story could go, actually was in Zombie’s head.

Was he trying to say anything about drug-addiction? Because as far-fetched as that may seem, there is plenty of references to that. For instance, Heidi is a former drug-addict trying to get over her old sensibilities and develop new, improved ones, yet, still finds her way of coming back to them. And that’s all thanks to that vinyl-record she listens to from that weird band, which may be another metaphor for the drugs in her life; past, present, and future. As the recording continues to play more and more, her old life of drugs and partying comes back, and it’s only a matter of time until it spirals out of control and her old friends need to come back into her life and help her. Maybe, just maybe am I diving into this a bit too much? Damn straight I probably am! But still, at least I’m trying to give some amount of credit to Zombie, because it doesn’t seem like any of this material (his, as a matter of fact) goes any further than Satan, dead babies, and witches. Oh, and some rock ‘n roll as well. Some.

If there was anything in this movie that was worth remembering or really blowing me away, it was Sheri Moon’s performance as Heidi. In the past, I’ve never really been too fond of Moon’s acting, as I felt like Zombie has always had the chance to just shoe-horn her in, anyway that he could, but here, she feels as if she belongs. She isn’t her to just get nakey (although she does and it’s awesome); she isn’t her to just act all weird and crazy (quite the contrary, actually); and she isn’t here just to allow her hubby, Zombie, to throw whatever it is he can at her. She’s actually here to act and acting is what she does well by giving Heidi the right amount of charm and sympathy, that makes us care for her more and more as the flick continues to enroll into some odd shite. Moon is obviously down for whatever comes her way, but the human-aspect of her character is probably what worked best for me, and it was interesting to see where her character went, how she got there, and when she was ever going to get out of it. By the way, I’m talking about her drug-addiction. In case you couldn’t tell.

At least Rob Zombie has been able to catch a pic of Bigfoot. I think.

At least Rob Zombie has been able to catch a pic of Bigfoot. I think.

Moon keeps the movie somewhat grounded in a real-sense of reality, whereas everybody else seems to just be losing their essence of cool. Bruce Davison was a big, old welcome-back as the scholar that’s interested in Heidi’s past and record she just received  and shows why the guy has this likable sense of dignity to him, that never really waters down over time. It’s been awhile sine I’ve seen this dude do anything, let alone, anything good, so it was a nice, blast-from-the-past to have. Horror-queens Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, all play the three witches as they ham it up furiously where they bitch, gnaw, and cackle their way through any scene they show up. Does it always work? Not really. More or less of it seems to be them trying really hard to be like the old days, but it’s entertaining enough to watch them try and remember what it used to be like, when they were young, fun, and blissful. And there’s probably a hundred-more cameos, side performances, and such by a bunch of other peoples that I forgot to mention but once you see them, you’ll recognize them.

Consensus: Zombie may have a clear-eye for ambition with The Lords of Salem, and while some of it does work and freak you out a bit, some of it may also have you laughing as if any of this is supposed to be taken seriously, or with a grain of salt. It’s neither: it’s REALLY serious.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Take the treats. Or die!"

“Take the treats. Or die!”

The Crucible (1996)

Watching movies based on plays that you already read, really just takes out all of the fun.

After being spurned by her married lover (Daniel Day-Lewis), young Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder) stirs up a frenzy of hysteria and fear with accusations of witchcraft. Various other townspeople affected are played by Paul Scofield, Joan Allen, and Bruce Davison.

The film is based on and adapted from the 1953 play from Arthur Miller, which I already had the pleasure of reading. To be truly honest I’m glad I saw this movie because without this film, the play would have left a really bad taste in my mouth.

The really daring political statement that the play made was about the rebellion against Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “witch hunts” in the U.S, and how Arthur Miller put those ideas and statements towards these “witch hunts” in Salem. I understood the point and the message, but this film never really did anything new to teach me something different about this time and age.

Most of the direction in the middle of the film really does start drag on. The scenes that featured the little girls acting as they were being attacked by demons were too silly and unintentionally funny. I also feel that this film really doesn’t put forth an effort to draw us in. I knew who these characters were from the reading, but some just seeing the movie will not, so therefore they would be a little confused on who these people really are.

I did enjoy how this film really captured the look and feel of the Salem Witch Trials at the time. All the paranoia that was going on in this little community was captured very well. The film really did look like Salem at the time, because the set pieces are really all in all beautiful and some images are just really captivating.

The screenplay is in most cases a lot like the original play as the majority of the lines were taken directly from the play. Some new lines and scenes were put in and made this film a lot more effective. All the main occurrences in the play are in this film. However, some are altered, and some new ones were added for the dramatic effect. Overall these changes we’re really well planned out for the film and made it more effective for me.

The reason this film really does work is because of its A-list cast. Daniel-Day Lewis, really does a good job here but this is definitely not one of his best roles. It was almost forgettable until the very end. Winona Ryder, does a good job at showing how evil and maniacal she can really be. But the two who really stand out for me are from Paul Scofield and Joan Allen. Paul Scofield plays Judge Danforth, and really does match the act and power this character had over everyone opposite him in the original play. Scofield who should’ve been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, gives off a lot of energy without giving too much of it to show a weakness. Joan Allen plays Elizabeth Proctor, and is the most effective female in the entire cast, and shows she really can be as powerful as anyone else, even though the spotlight is not on her throughout. The only problem I had with some of these performances was that I could not believe them, because I felt that some of the language they used was not very useful for these dramatic scenes, and in the end just made them sound somewhat cheesy.

Consensus:  The Crucible is an effective and powerful adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play. However, at times doesn’t feel genuine and doesn’t present a very good insightful message, much unlike the play.


Short Cuts (1993)

A 3 hour and 9 minute film, that still needed more.

Robert Altman’s mosaic masterpiece, based on Raymond Carver’s short stories, presents several different characters — including a baker, a chauffeur, a helicopter pilot, a phone-sex provider, a pool cleaner and a jazz singer — whose stale lives intersect and are forever altered through simple twists of fate. This moving tale’s all-star cast includes Tim Robbins, Madeleine Stowe, Bruce Davison, Andie MacDowell, Jack Lemmon and Anne Archer.

The movie traces the actions of twenty-two principal characters, both in parallel and at occasional loose points of connection. The role of chance and luck is central to the film, and many of the stories concern death and infidelity.

Much of the stories are told about people who just have very strange but overall upsetting lives, and barely get through it day to day. A lot of these stories blend a great deal of humor and mix it with the depressing tone, but keep you interested due to this sharp skills.

Most of the credit of this film has to go to the amazing director Robert Altman, who really does show he can make some great film’s. He takes this three hour long story and still make it fresh and barely ever drag on. Altman really does have a love for many of these stories, and a lot of these strange characters and that comes out from his very impressive direction. He goes through each story like a 3 hour soap opera but never misses a beat in combining some strange moments and add a little flavor of realism.

As great as this film can be it did have a lot of problems that could’ve saved this film. With so many stories and a very long run time like this, you would think this movie would be a central message for some sort of idea. No, and if there was I didn’t catch it. I found the film’s stories to be powerful and mostly engaging but by the end of the film we don’t really see much resolved, and we don’t see what the main purpose of this film was, other than just a bunch of stories that end suddenly.

Many stories in this film are actually more interesting than others, and although I stated before didn’t drag too much, the less interesting ones were given the most attention. I think that Altman goes from one story to another but not a very notable way, because sometimes the stories are barely or at all connected.

The huge ensemble-cast is just simply amazing. There are a lot of big names in this film that show up, but actually do add something to this film, that is deserved. I can’t name notable one other than two that stand out in my mind. Tim Robbins plays a cop in this film an creates one of the most hated, self-conscience characters I have ever seen on film, and creates a perfect character. Also Julianne Moore has some good scenes although she is barely on and by the end of the film you soon start to know that she is destined for greatness.

Consensus: Some stories are more interesting than others, Short Cuts features some impressive directing, amazingly-acted ensemble, and some great stories to be told. The only problem is that an engaging film needs to have an engaging message, which this does not have.