Here’s a few quick mini reviews on some films that have been released in the past few weeks. If you want to see something then it’s pretty slim pickings. See Gone Girl if you haven’t and also get excited for some upcoming films. I’d say skip these and save your money for the real good stuff. A few of them might be worth a rental.
Kill the Messenger: A decent little guy vs. the system flick. You’ve seen this done better in a film like Erin Brokovich, but Jeremy Renner is a good enough lead that you’ll tag along for his investigation into drugs and America’s involvement. It does a solid job at showing the price of telling the truth. In the end I was left with only a history lesson on a subject I was unaware of and that’s fine. I’m glad I know now and the film accomplished something by doing that. There’s nothing special or outstanding here, but Renner makes it a decent watch and it’s a nice history lesson on a subject that’s been pushed to the side by the media. At some point I would recommend red boxing it. (C)
Men, Women, & Children: I like Jason Reitman as a director. Juno and Up in the Air are fine films, but oh no I’m much less enthused after Labor Day and this. It follows a group of high schoolers and parents that deal with how the internet has changed relationships. The entire approach is overbearing and unsubtle too the point that I just didn’t care. It’s a topic that could offer some insight, but the film just ends up pointing out obvious problems the internet has caused. There’s nothing insightful about it. It’s telling us about a problem we already know. The characters felt contrived and forced into poor circumstances though most of the actors handled their problems well. I actually wanted to check my phone during it as it kept hammering it’s point into my skull. The film wants to be a big important movie about relationships and it almost completely fails. Aesthetically the film isn’t even easy on the eyes. The “how we live now” stuff meanders from person to person in the form of vignettes. I’ll say the attempt was at least somewhat ambitious, but it’s miscalculated and poorly executed. I enjoyed Kaitlyn Dever’s performance, whose gonna be a star, and it was nice to see Adam Sandler in a dramatic role again. I hope Reitman can get out of this funk. (D)
The Judge: Supposedly this was Robert Downey Jr.’s passion project. Unfortunately there’s little passion that shows up in the end product. The film plays like a father and son legal drama with schmaltzy moments and clichés at every corner. Clichés are perfectly fine if they’re handled with authenticity, but The Judge comes off as a TV movie/procedural drama far too often. The cinematography is hugely annoying and so over lit that I felt like I needed sunglasses. The film failed to convince me in nearly every aspect. It’s all so overthought and tries to hit the usual genre notes, but just ends up missing even those. Downey and Duvall keep this ship from completely sinking into oblivion. The Judge is doomed to be a rainy day TNT movie that you’ll watch cause you’re bored. (D+)
The Boxtrolls: Another imaginative a delightful animated film from Laika. It’s their weakest film of the three, but that says more about how good their first two were. They’ve made another film with great stop motion animation and some substantial thematic depth. The voice work is nuanced and as original as the world depicted. The film’s narrative is unfortunately not as engaging, which holds the film back from being truly imaginative as Laika’s other 2 films. The best accomplishment here is the social issues explored. I know it’s not fair, but my minor disappointment overall stems from Coraline and Paranormal being so great. The Boxtrolls is still an admirable effort and solid animation film with likable characters. I just don’t see it being remembered a couple years from now. It’s a good pre-Halloween viewing! (B)
Fury: Director David Ayer brings us his action war flick. He had an action film called Sabotage come out earlier this year, and I’d rather forget it… Fury isn’t an outright bad film, but it’s miscalculated and forgettable. Brad Pitt plays an old war hero and his character just left me wanting to watch him as Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds. Logan Lerman’s character is supposed to be a fresh young soldier that sees the horrors of war. He’s picked on by the older guys, which posts a problem in their characterizations. They never changed from their macho frat boy roots and they didn’t grow on me as the film went on. Nearly every moment of bro intimacy was forced and I cringed a few times. That’s not to say it’s all poor. There’s some fun in seeing the culture among them, and the cinematography is solid. It’s just that the films pacing and characterizations are so miscalculated that the characters are never given depth and the story doesn’t ever pick up steam. Any attempted themes are heavy handed and only done through dialogue. We’re left with an unfocused and forced war drama that has some solid action sequences. The Nazi’s are basically just robots that are there only to be killed as if this is a video game. Even the action is uninspired at times. Give me some pulp or crazy camera action sequences! The films best moments are in the final battle, which is mostly just violent images far from the horror and realistic depictions in a film such as Saving Private Ryan. Not even Brad Pitt can elevate this material. You may like it if you just want some action warfare. In the end it’s just a mediocre war film with plenty of violent warfare, but little intelligence or anything to say. (C-)