THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS review

Ah, A Christmas Carol. The timeless story about a Christmas grump who learns the value and meaning of Christmas by confronting his mean-spirited choices of his past, present, and possible future with the help of a trio of ghosts. It’s a wonderful story with tons of movies that showcase something different. Some more timeless than others, but they’re here and they’re always a treat around the holidays.

Surprisingly though, there’s ironically no movie about the man who created the original novel in the first place, Charles Dickens. Weirdly enough, these past few months have strangely been about authors of beloved literary classics. A.A. Milne of Winnie the Pooh (GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN [2017]) and J.D. Salinger of Catcher in the Rye (REBEL IN THE RYE [2017]). I guess it’s just been that kind of year. But who cares, so long as the story is good? Actually, this movie is something of a joke waiting to happen. It’s a movie adaptation… of a book… about the author… who writes a book. I may not be laughing out loud, but on the inside, I can’t help but bust a gut.

The story looks like it’s about Dickens not at his career best as an author. In hopes of creating a new story that will put him back in the spotlight. Creating an imaginary Ebenezer Scrooge to communicate with, he slowly, but surely, creates the novel, A Christmas Carol.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Dan Stevens (MARSHALL [2017], A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES [2014], THE FIFTH ESTATE [2013], and the upcoming APOSTLE [2018]), living legend Christopher Plummer (THE STAR [2017], THE LAKE HOUSE [2006], TWELVE MONKEYS [1995], DRAGNET [1987], THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING [1975], THE SOUND OF MUSIC [1965], and upcoming films ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD [2018] and THE LAST FULL MEASURE [2018]), Jonathan Pryce (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END [2007], TOMORROW NEVER DIES [1997], BRAZIL [1985], 12 episodes of TV show GAME OF THRONES [2011 – ongoing], and the upcoming THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE [2018]), and Morfydd Clark (LOVE & FRIENDSHIP [2016] and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES [2016]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Bharat Nalluri, known for MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY (2008) and THE CROW: SALVATION (2000). Penning the screenplay is Susan Coyne, making her feature-film debut. Congrats, miss. Composing the score is Mychael Danna, known for THE BREADWINNER (2017), BILLY LYNN (2016), and SURF’S UP (2007). Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Smithard, known for GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, BELLE (2013), and THE TRIP (2010).

Overall, I wasn’t expecting this to be a comedy, but I’m highly open to it. It looks enjoyable, beautiful sets and production value, and Stevens looks like he’s going to be incredibly fun to watch as this eccentric writer who gets all these ideas. I think I’m going to like this a lot.

This is my honest opinion of: THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS

(SUMMARY)

Set in 1843. Famed and celebrated author, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens), has sadly hit a low point. After writing Oliver Twist, he wrote two more stories that were not as successful. Desperate to not let his career die, as well as being low on money and a fifth child on the way with his wife Kate (Morfydd Clark), so a successful book is a must and soon. Then an idea strikes: a short comedy that celebrates Christmas and what it means, even though Christmas isn’t a big holiday. The trouble is, he has to write it in less than a month and he has no idea what to write.

(REVIEW)

I liked it. It’s actually a really interesting story and for a movie based on true events, it’s a refreshing approach compared to most. For one thing, it’s primarily a comedy. Not that I’m saying true stories haven’t been comedies before, but usually they’re dramas or have a mix of drama and comedy. I feel like this movie had comedy in the forefront.

At the center of that comedy is a surprisingly charismatic performance by Stevens. While I can’t say what Charles Dickens’ personality really was, I can’t deny that I loved the interpretation here. Dickens is like this lovable mad genius if he was a writer of whimsical fantasies. He’s loaded with energy and wonderful comedic timing. I love how he is with his children, changing the way he interacts with them as individuals, the way he gets excited when he learns of the word “humbug,” his physicality as he tries to invent Scrooge the character, it’s all incredibly fun to watch. I also really enjoyed his interactions with his young Irish nanny, Tara (Anna Murphy), who seems incredibly into his work and how he runs his ideas past her. I enjoy watching her get excited and then he gets excited, constantly feeding into each other’s imaginations and passions. And thank God this didn’t become some kind of love affair. I could have easily seen this relationship go that route, but no, it was mercifully restrained. Then again, I’m pretty sure Tara, and by extension Murphy herself, are teenagers, so it’s probably silly to worry that the story would have allowed something that creepy. But more than just Charles being funny and enjoyably eccentric, his dramatic side shines as well. I guess at the time, poverty was considered closer to a disease than a societal worry (I said, as if anything’s really changed), but he has a burning passion to tell the stories of orphaned children or homeless people. Mostly because he was one as a boy thanks to a less than careful father who got in trouble with the law. He defends them, wishes to help them at every given turn despite the criticism he gets from his wealthy peers who think that it’s a wasted subject.

But I think on a more personal level, I love this interpretation of a writer. The talking to oneself, the talking to the characters that aren’t supposed to be there, but his imagination is so vivid and real to him that he has full-on conversations with them. He’s not crazy, as he does snap back to reality when someone talks to him. As an occasional writer myself, I can say that this is also my creative process. Though to be fair, his method is more productive. The more he interacts with his imagination, the more progress he makes in his writing. I just distract myself and get nothing done. In any case, there is that psychological element that I

Oh and seriously, Plummer is probably my favorite Scrooge I’ve ever seen. Probably not saying much, considering that I’ve not seen many. Yeah, quick side note, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an entire movie of A Christmas Carol before. I know there’s a crap ton that exist. THE MUPPET’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992), the ImageMover’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL (2009), and I think there’s a not-so-good one that was made for TV that starred Whoopi Goldberg as Scrooge. These are the ones I remember wanting to see the most as a kid. Again, there’s countless interpretations, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one all the way though. Either way, I know what Scrooge is supposed to be like and I think Plummer needs a proper shot in the role. But if this is all we’re going to get, which is likely, then you won’t hear me complaining much. In fact, some of my favorite scenes and moments are when Charles is talking to Scrooge. Watching Scrooge berate and belittle Charles as he attempts to write, being both an influence and an obstacle for the book.

But as with most movies, it isn’t perfect. In fact, there’s quite a few question marks that I had.

For one thing, if the Dickens household is low on income, why are they still going for the lavish extremities, like chandeliers and even more hired hands? One would think they’d have to get rid of a few things to make ends meet. It’s even more confusing when the prices for their stuff is told to them as it arrives and is being put up, and they’re taken by surprise. Did no one bother to ask how much something cost? You’d think if you were low on funds, that’d be the first thing you’d worry about.

As much as I enjoy the connection between Charles and Tara, their relationship does beg me to ask one simple question. Why her? Why does Charles share his passion with the nanny and not, say, his wife? As it stands, Kate has very little character to her as it stands, other than to be the wife who accepts her creatively tormented husband, but that’s been done to death. Already, the accuracy of this relationship can be put on trial, so why not nick the nanny character and replace her with the wife? One would think she’d have a more impactful role, but she really doesn’t.

And as much as I love Charles’ presented creative process here, there is one scene that sort of subverted reality. While I’m certainly no stranger to talking to myself in a public setting, I talk under my breath. If you stare at me long enough, it’s obvious I’m doing it, but I do make some attempt at keeping it inconspicuous. It’s only in the privacy of my home and bedroom where I engage in full-on writer mode. In the scene in question, Charles is walking along the streets, having a full on conversation, out-loud, with Scrooge as if that man really was walking beside him. To make matters even more confusing, no one walking by him looks at him like he’s crazy. It would have been warranted. This is the only time where I think reality was blurred and bothered me.

Overall, despite the few problems, I enjoyed this film. Perhaps I’m a little bias, considering it’s about a writer and I’m a sucker for movies about writers. I love Steven’s performance, I love Charles and his creative process as a writer, and I adored many of the character connections. It’s a very heartfelt and interesting story and I really think everyone should give it a shot. It’s probably not in theaters anymore, as of this review’s publishing, but when it comes out on Blu-Ray, I highly recommend a rental. It’s a good flick to enjoy around the holidays. I wouldn’t necessarily buy it or anything, but it’s worth watching. It may not be a modern classic, but I think it’s a modern hit.

My honest rating for THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS: 4/5

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WONDER review

I feel like I’ve been seeing a bit of a rotation between the same kid actors lately. I don’t know, does anyone else feel that way?

Eh, who cares? A good story is all that matters.

WONDER is based on a 2012 children’s novel of the same name, written by R.J. Palacio, that went on to become a New York Times best seller… like every other movie based from that list. The book is obviously well-received and went on to spawn a spin-off, 365 Days of Wonder, and a sequel, Auggie and Me. At least… I think that’s what they are. Information is a little inconsistent and I know I won’t make the time to find them in a bookstore to confirm. In any case, there’s your history. You bookworms can correct my information as you see fit.

Now, being the uncultured swine that I am, I’ve obviously never even heard of these books. But I go to the movies pretty frequently, hence I see a bunch of trailers, and I have a vague idea of what the movie is about. It looks like it’s about this young boy who has a physical deformity and gets made fun of at school. But at least one kid is kind enough and they strike up a friendship. Basically it looks like it’s a story about acceptance of those that are different and an exploration of the life and times of a kid with this kind of condition.

Here’s the cast. We have the incredibly talented up and coming young star, Jacob Tremblay (THE BOOK OF HENRY [2017], ROOM [2015], THE SMURFS 2 [2013], and the upcoming THE PREDATOR [2018]), Julia Roberts (SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE [2017], CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR [2007], and MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING [1997]), and Owen Wilson (CARS 3 [2017], NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM [2007], ANACONDA [1997], and upcoming films FATHER FIGURES [2017] and SHANGHAI DAWN, no release date announced). In support, we have Noah Jupe (SUBURBICON [2017], 1 episode of TV show PENNY DREADFUL [2014 – 2016], and upcoming films THE TITAN [2018] and HOLMES AND WATSON [2018]), Bryce Gheisar (A DOG’S PURPOSE [2017]), Izabela Vidovic (HOMEFRONT [2013], and TV show: 2 episodes of SUPERGIRL [2015 – ongoing] and 10 episodes of ABOUT A BOY [2014 – 2015]), Elle McKinnon (TV projects I’ve never heard of), and Daveed Diggs (3 episodes of UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT [2015 – ongoing], 9 episodes of TV show BLACK-ISH [2014 – ongoing], 10 episodes of THE GET DOWN [2016 – 2017], and upcoming films FERDINAND [2017] and BLINDSPOTTING [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing the script is Stephen Chbosky, known for THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (2012), writing the screenplay for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017), and creator of TV show JERICHO (2006 – 2008), and the upcoming PRINCE CHARMING, no release date announced. Chbosky’s partners-in-pen, making for a red flag total of three writers are Steve Conrad (UNFINISHED BUSINESS [2015], THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY [2013], and THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS [2006]) and Jack Thorne (a bunch of unknown TV projects and the upcoming comic adaptation, THE SANDMAN, no release date announced). Composing the score, we have Marcelo Zarvos, known for FENCES (2016), THE GOOD SHEPHERD (2006), and TV show THE BIG C (2010 – 2013). Finally, the cinematographer is Don Burgess, known for SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME (2017), ENCHANTED (2007), CONTACT (1997), and the upcoming AQUAMAN (2018).

Overall, I think this movie can easily be good, but risks being just a little too obvious and probably won’t go as far as it can go, if what I read about the book is true. I’ll likely explain myself in the review. Mean time…

This is my honest opinion of: WONDER

(SUMMARY)

August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) was born with a genetic defect that required several surgeries to allow him to see, hear, and speak properly. Though he lives life as normally as possible, he is left with a disfigured face and scars. Still, he a nice kid and is transitioning from homeschooling with his mom Isabel (Julia Robberts) to his first day in middle school at a public school, much to the concerns of his loving father, Nate (Owen Wilson). Though his first day is rough, he does eventually start adjusting to life in school, and we learn about the lives around him as well.

(REVIEW)

I think this is one of the sweetest movies I’ve seen all year.

Say what you want about THE BOOK OF HENRY, I think Tremblay is a on a winning streak. This kid is such a good actor and he cranks it up ROOM levels here. Auggie is a sweet kid who struggles with his handicaps, looking down to avoid eye contact, is mostly quiet, but he’s funny, charming, weird and gross, you know, like every kid his age. But as much as he has his fun, he’s still hurt by the name calling and the things kids say behind his back. Kids have said that if anyone touches him, they get the plague. Another says he’d kill himself he looked like Auggie. Not to mention the bullying from Julian (Bryce Gheisar). As someone who was bullied in school as well (albeit a bit more mildly than Auggie), I get his mannerisms. An unwillingness to talk, about the specific problems or in general, looking down avoiding eye contact, which I still do as a twenty-eight year old adult, keep to myself, few friends, there’s a lot that I personally relate to and Auggie will definitely tear your hear out, and I mean that in the best possible way… if you couldn’t tell.

And the rest of the cast does really well too. You can argue that the characters may not be all that interesting, but I would argue that this isn’t meant to have the deepest characters, just good and likable. That’s exactly what we’re given. Roberts as Isabel and Wilson as Nate are both so likable as loving parents. I especially like the moment when Auggie comes out with Jack Will (Noah Jupe) at the end of school and Isabel is completely dumbfounded. When Auggie asks her if it’s okay if he comes over to their house, she’s all like, “Okay… I have got to be cool.” I don’t know, I love seeing that in parents, who are actively aware of how they present themselves to their kids’ friends. It tickles me.

I think if there’s any character outside of Auggie that really had some complexity was Via (Izabella Vidovic). While an incredibly loving sister to her younger brother, she’s still affected by a surprisingly honest sense of jealousy of her parents devoting so much of their attention to Auggie, rather than her. Thing is, I’m probably making it sound more mean-spirited than it is, but I like that about her. She knows why her parents show him more attention because he’s the one who has to live with his face and how many kids may make fun of him for it. She is incredibly understanding, but it sure does come at its own cost. She’s left out of simple conversations of just being asked how her day went at school, to bigger things like whether or not she should invite her parents to the school play that she auditioned for. But she never succumbs to being a rebel, changing her look to get attention, doesn’t act out beyond normal teen angst, she’s just a kind, sweet girl that wishes she could be afforded the same attention her brother gets. Also, her best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) totally ignores her at school, which drives her into a tailspin. She also gets into a cute relationship with Justin (Nadji Jeter), the “theater nerd” that motivates her to audition for the school play, which Miranda is also in. In retrospect, Via might be the best character in the movie. She may get a great deal of screen time, but I almost wouldn’t mind a spin off movie with just her.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

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There are even moments that I feel like I should be outraged with and call “foul and unrealistic,” but even that doesn’t seem to be too far off from reality. Specifically, after Julian is brought to the principal’s office for his mean photo toward to the end of the movie; the photo that photoshopped out Auggie in the class picture and then wrote “No freaks allowed” on it. His parents are called in, clearly rich and pompous people. The mom admits to doing the photoshop herself. First off, there’s no way on God’s green Earth that this woman has any idea how to use anything related to computers. She probably only knows how to check her email for the next business meeting that will raise money for rich people, or whatever. Second, she claims she did it because she wanted the people that visit their home to ask about their son, not Auggie. Um… is this a common thing for this family? Do guests look at the class photo, take one look at Auggie and spend the duration of their stay asking questions about that boy? I have a hard time believing that. Even if that were the case, then maybe they should take a hard long look at their lives and accept that maybe the reason why they’re asking about Auggie more than their own son is because their family isn’t very interesting and their son is an uninteresting suck-up.

 

I wanted to be so mad at how these parents treated the situation, fueling their son’s cruel habits, and even blaming Auggie for their son’s actions without holding him accountable for anything. But the more I thought about it… no, that’s exactly what parents to these types of kids do. They’re high off of believing that they’re the perfect family and that they have no problems to speak of. But when the first problem rears its ugly head, they deny it, or try to pass it off as someone else’s problem that got in the way of their perfection.

 

My only real issue with this scene is that we see Julian’s guilt over the photo. Thing is, we never see him act guilty over anything he does, so his humanity is pulled out of nowhere, which is pretty clunky. If we were occasionally shown moments of him feeling bad about his actions, this would make more sense. Heck, none of this even explains where the bullying comes from. Sure, one would think the more vicious bullying, like direct name calling, would be a result of borderline abusive parents who insult their own child. Not unlike physical abuse, the whole point is to feel empowered over someone smaller and weaker, which Julian is clearly doing. But his parents strike me more like the absentee types that never show him the love that most parents show their kid. So I would imagine his type of bullying would be more akin to subtly talking down to him and proclaiming how rich he is and how much better he is, rather than putting him down like he does in the movie. Something more subtle and snobbish, rather than verbal attacks. But hey, I’m no psychologist. Maybe bullying of any kind can come from any number of sources. I just didn’t buy the connections here.

 

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***END SPOILERS***

Unfortunately, the most glaring problem, which honestly isn’t even all that big, that I have with the film is that there’s characters that are introduced, and get nice enough backstories, but we’re still not privy to who they actually are. Specifically, I mean Miranda. I like her backstory, that she was a close friend of Via’s when they were little and looks to the Pullman family as her second family, but when she went to camp over the summer, she wasn’t fitting in, or whatever the case was, and decided to pretend that she was Via. She claimed to the others around her that she had a disfigured brother and suddenly became really popular. But when she got back, she had made new friends, and was ridden with guilt upon meeting Via again, having spent months pretending to be her. Russell is certainly a charismatic enough actress to carry the role, but we never really see Miranda and Via make up as friends. It literally happens out of the blue. In a lot of ways, I wish we’d gotten more of her and her relationship with the protagonist family. It’s more of a case of being told her relationship to the Pullman family, rather than being shown the relationship.

In fact, that’s kind of a smaller issue with other characters as well. In the beginning of the story, we’re introduced to three other kids, Jack Will, Julian, and Charlotte (Elle McKinnon). At a glance, it’s like the movie is saying that these three kids, as well as Auggie, are going to be the most central to the story. While that’s true for Jack Will and Julian, I was a little bummed out that Charlotte wasn’t as central. Why? Because she was actually kind of funny. She’s this little girl who acted in commercials and is totally prideful about it, but not in a mean-spirited way. Just in an overly-proud kind of way. She’s not stuck-up, she just did something “famous-related” and is boasting, but she’s not an unlikable kid. In fact, throughout the film, she has a sort of admiration for Auggie and doesn’t like it when the other girls talk mean about him. It’s a shame she kind of gets thrown to the wayside for Summer (Millie Davis). Don’t get me wrong, Summer is a nice enough character and Davis is a good enough actress, but the character could have so easily been Charlotte that it’s a wonder why she wasn’t.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

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Also, did the movie ever really explain why Jack Will said that mean thing about killing himself if he looked like Auggie? I mean, I didn’t read the book, but I read about it online and he said what he said because he was just trying to be friends with Julian and he wanted to fit in by saying what they say. But this movie completely sidesteps that. They just get on MINECRAFT and apologize and that’s it. Maybe that fight between Jack Will and Julian softened Auggie’s edges, but it was still a mean-spirited moment that barely has a resolution. But I guess that fight and the surprisingly effective guilt-ridden face on Jack Will’s face after learning that Auggie was in the Ghost Face costume when he said what he said was enough.

 

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this was a cute film. Tremblay is still a wonderful talent, Vidovic knocks it out of the park as the sister, Roberts and Wilson are ridiculously enjoyable and heartfelt, and the support kids do a great job as well. Some likable characters don’t get enough screen time in my opinion, and some things are explained in a clunky kind of way, but the movie definitely lives up to the name, so I highly recommend it. I might even consider owning it on Blu-Ray when the time comes. This movie doesn’t blend in with other kids films because it was made to stand out.

My honest rating for WONDER: a strong 4/5

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WONDERSTRUCK review

Hmm, so it’s based on a book, huh? Never read it, so I can’t decide if I’m excited or not. Hell, even after seeing the trailer a couple times now, I still can’t really decide. The story looks like it’s about this boy living with his single mom. He doesn’t know who his dad is, but happens upon some evidence that he might be an astronaut. His mom doesn’t give any information, but he acquires some more evidence that takes him on a journey through the city – New York? – he lives in, alone, happens upon a friend, and all the while, his journey is being mirrored by a flashback of, I think, his mother when she was a child and possibly all culminating in the boy learning the truth of his real father.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Oakes Fegley (PETE’S DRAGON [2016], 3 episodes of both PERSON OF INTEREST [2011 – 2016] and BOARDWALK EMPIRE [2010 – 2014]), introducing Millicent Simmonds (feature film debut; congrats, miss), Michelle Williams (CERTAIN WOMEN [2016], I’M NOT THERE. [2007], HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER [1998], and upcoming films THE GREATEST SHOWMAN [2017] and VENOM [2018]), and one of my biggest Hollywood crushes, Julianne Moore (SUBURBICON [2017], FREEDOMLAND [2006], and THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK [1997]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Todd Haynes, known for CAROL (2015) and I’M NOT THERE. Penning the screenplay, as well as being the original novel’s author, we have Brian Selznick, known for HUGO (2011), as well as the novel for that movie. Composing the score is Carter Burwell, known for THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017), A GOOFY MOVIE (1995), and RAISING ARIZONA (1987). Finally, the cinematographer is Edward Lachman, known for WIENER-DOG (2016), I’M NOT THERE., and SELENA (1997).

Overall, I think the trailer is a jumbled, incoherent mess, but I wager the movie itself is going to be alright. It’s got some good talent in the spotlight and behind the scenes, so I think it’ll be solid.

This is my honest opinion of: WONDERSTRUCK

(SUMMARY)

Set in 1977. The story follows young Ben (Oakes Fegley). His mother Elaine (Michelle Williams) recently passed away from a car crash and he’s been living with his aunt, uncle, and cousins. Happening upon some clues as to who is father might be, or rather where to find him. However, an accident happens, getting struck by lightning, and his hearing is destroyed. When he wakes up in the hospital, he sets out to New York from Minnesota to find his father. Simultaneously, we are shown a separate storyline set in 1927, following a young deaf girl named Rose (Millicent Simmonds) who sets off to look for Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore), a silent-movie actress that she idolizes.

(REVIEW)

Correcting myself: Ben thinks his father was an astronomer, not an astronaut.

I’m a little conflicted. On the one hand, this movie is pretty boring and takes way too long to get to where it’s trying to go, but on the other it’s heart-warming, emotional, and even has a style to it that I got into.

Let’s talk about those negatives. If you read my summary, you noticed that this movie is basically two stories in one. Ben’s story in ’77, and Rose’s story in ’27. Here’s the thing, there is zero fluid transition into her story. The pop in so randomly that it’s almost painful to sit through. The moment something’s going on with Ben, the scene ends and then BAM!, we get more with Rose. There’s no rhyme or reason as why the movie cuts to her, it just chooses to and this is pretty consistent throughout the movie. Even when you get something of a breather from them, the story will immediately flash back to Rose and you’re reminded of your borderline frustrations. I can see someone getting legit upset with these choices.

Also, I can’t claim to know how deafness works, but I’m calling this movie out… if someone is holding a landline to their ear, and a lightning bolt strikes the telephone wire the landline is connected to, that person doesn’t get electrocuted and go deaf (at least, not in the way it’s portrayed here)! This movie isn’t some weird fantasy taking place in 1977, it’s a drama. No fantastical elements at all. And yet, this bizarre crap happens.

***SPOILERS***

 

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And let’s be honest here, Jamie (Jaden Michael) is a pointless character and serves only to pad out the runtime. Really think about it. Ben is on a journey to look for his father that he never met. Jamie can point him in the right direction. But because he’s a loser with no friends, he sabotages Ben’s plans so the two can hang out. In a way, it’s more creepy than anything and this takes up a good twenty or so minutes of the movie. So it’s really hard to feel for the Jamie when Ben explodes at him angrily. You’re 100 percent on Ben’s side and it’s kind of a wonder why they remain friends when they reunite later on.

On the flipside, just like Ben’s adventures in the museum being a pointless detour, Rose’s time in the museum isn’t any better. Eh, rather it feeds back into what I said about it taking its sweet time getting to where it wants to go. Like, she explores the museum, and for awhile, I thought this was going to end up being a tour of the museum and expand into New York as seen by a young deaf girl. But nope, this extended stay in the museum has one solitary purpose. The curator of the museum is, TWIST, her older brother Walter! That was, what, half an hour of build up that should have taken half that time at worse?

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***END SPOILERS***

Having said all my complaints, which so hurt the film in the long run, there are some undeniably good things about this movie that I couldn’t help but get attached to.

Despite Fegley being a pretty solid actor for his age, it’s ironic that his story doesn’t pick up until after his adventures in the museum, and the majority of the film is held up by Rose’s story. Yeah, the character with the most random placement is actually the best part of the movie. Never mind that young Simmonds is a very good young actress who acts mostly through her expressions, but the style in which her story is told is the most compelling and clever, both visually and on a storytelling basis. It’s all in black and white, like an old-timey movie. More than anything, it’s a silent film. Zero dialog, just pure score and very minimal sound effects. You know how in old films, the dialog is through cutting to a quick single sentence quote? That’s cleverly done via the characters writing on notepads. While Ben has Jamie utilize it when they’re talking to each other, I feel like it stands out much better in Rose’s story, simply because of how infrequent they are. Not to mention, the her journey is chock-full of surprises, which I’ll tackle in the spoilers.

And as much as I think the scenes with Jamie are padding, it’s hard not to get sucked into their connection. I thought the scene with Jamie teaching Ben the alphabet in sign-language was a cute moment as he’s sharing half his sandwich with him.

***SPOILERS***

 

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Originally, you just think that Rose is living with her mean dad and that she wants to travel to New York to find the actress she really likes. Turns out, the actress is actually her mom, who quite possibly abandoned her to pursue a career in acting, as evidenced by her frustration in her being there at all without the least bit of love to show for her daughter. Hell, neither of her parents seem to care much about her, with the notable exception of her kind older brother, the curator, which, despite my complaints about the build-up to the surprise, was in fact, a good surprise.

Hell, circling back to the very first scene with her, you’re kind of lead to believe that the silent-film approach to Rose’s story is just a weird artistic direction the movie takes. But no, it’s not until the second-ish scene where you realize, “Oh! She’s deaf!” Even that was its own little twist.

And the best part of the film is definitely the climax when Ben meets older Rose, played by Moore in a dual performance. This got raw for me. After an hour and half of building up, we finally get why we’re seeing Rose’s story at all. She’s Ben’s grandmother! I mean, none of this ultimately becomes a huge surprise once they start piecing everything together, but when Ben learns that his dad died a long time ago, you feel every ounce of those emotions between Ben and Rose and their utterly sweet connection. Never mind that Moore is so incredible that I bought that she knew sign-language (maybe she actually does), but you see her thoughts racing across the screen through her eyes like subtitles, but not a single word is spoken from her and it truly incredible to watch these two actors work off of each other. To be honest, with the exception of Jamie popping in at the last minute, these series of moments are perfect. Perfect enough to choke me up, anyway.

***

 

***

 

***END SPOILERS***

I might have to admit bias toward the movie, especially at the end, but despite its glaring flaws, I like this movie. If the transitions between Ben’s story and Rose’s story were more imaginative and sensible, this might have been a pretty unique and stylized movie. The visuals for the 20s and 70s are fine in of themselves, but it could have gone above and beyond. And there’s probably way too much of this movie that could have been cut down to flow more nicely and suit the narrative better. But I can’t ignore the emotions I felt and I simply adore the young actors, Simmonds highway robbing the show like a champ. By the end of the day, I’d say despite my liking for the movie, it’s probably not going to be for everyone. I can see the more boring aspects of the movie either putting you to sleep, or enticing you to watch something else. But I really think that if you give the movie a fair shot all the way through, the payoff is worth it. I still recommend it as a strong rental, or at a discount theater. I don’t see myself owning this movie, and probably not remembering it months later. Having said that, I was struck with wonder… eventually.

My honest rating for WONDERSTRUCK: 4/5

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BROOKLYN (transfer) review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve wanted to see this movie. Aside from the fact that it was being labeled as one of the best movies of the year, I’m also a relative fan of Saoirse Ronan. I also have to be honest, that was as far as my enthusiasm went. I guess I’m just a sucker for what people tell me. Someone tell me I’m a gopher, I’ll probably believe you. In any case, FINALLY made time to see this movie.

Starring: Saoirse Ronan (LOVING VINCENT [2017], HANNA [2011], ATONEMENT [2007], and upcoming films LADY BIRD [2017] and MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS [2018]) and Emory Cohen (WAR MACHINE [2017], THE GAMBLER [2014], and THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES [2012])

Support: Domhnall Gleeson (GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN [2017], THE REVENANT [2015], ANNA KARENINA [2012], and upcoming films STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI [2017] and PETER RABBIT [2018]), Jim Broadbent (THE SENSE OF AN ENDING [2017], HOT FUZZ [2007], THE BORROWERS [1997], and the upcoming PADDINGTON 2 [2018]), Fiona Glascott (THE DEAL [2008], RESIDENT EVIL [2002], and the upcoming FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD [2018]), and Emily Bett Rickards (FLICKA: COUNTRY PRIDE [2012], and TV shows ARROW [2012 – ongoing] and THE FLASH [2014 – ongoing])

Director: John Crowley (CLOSED CIRCUIT [2013], BOY A [2007], and INTERMISSION [2003]). Writer: Nick Hornby (WILD [2014] and FEVER PITCH [1997]). Composer: Michael Brook (STRONGER [2017], TALLULAH [2016], and THE FIGHTER [2010]). Cinematographer: Yves Bélanger (SHUT IN [2016], DEMOLITION [2016], and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB [2013])

(SUMMARY)

Set in the 1950’s. The story follows a young Irish woman named Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) who has been set up with a new life in America, Brooklyn to be exact. She has a difficult time adjusting at first, what with being homesick and all, but all of that changes when she meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a young Italian romantic who quickly falls for the Irish girl, whom eventually falls for him too. Life gets much easier… until Eilis gets word of tragic news that must bring her home.

(REVIEW)

Great. A nearly flawless movie and thoroughly heartfelt.

Ronan delivers probably her career best. That’s possibly not saying much considering how little she’s done, but there’s no denial that she plays her role as Eilis so straight and convincingly. Every step she takes throughout the film is completely felt. When she gets seasick on a ghetto-looking boat, you feel her agony as she tries to simply find a place to vomit, the heartache when she’s homesick, the happiness when she’s with Tony, Ronan is every bit engaging from the beginning to the end. If she were nominated for best actress at the Oscars, I wouldn’t be surprised (nor would I be surprised if she didn’t win, what with the way that shit’s ran).

The supporting cast isn’t lacking in enjoyment either. Eilis’ romantic-interest, Tony, is indeed a very likable character. He’s a gentleman, and maintains his down-to-earth demeanor and treatment of Eilis. Although I do have to ask why he has a stereotypical Italian accent when none of his family has one. Same mannerisms, maybe, but not the same accent. That was weird. Or maybe their accents were too subtle by comparison to Tony’s over-the-top accent. Who knows?

And, this took me by complete surprise in the most wonderful of ways, Emily Bett freakin’ Rickards of TV show ARROW (Felicity Smoak) popularity was in this movie. She, as well as the other girls in the boarding house, were absolutely charming. Bitchy, but in that hilarious kind of way. I wish I could more about her in this movie, as I do love her acting in ARROW, but her role is so minor here that I wish I could just dock points for that alone: not enough of her.

***SPOILERS***

 

***

 

***

If there was a complaint I had about this movie, it’s a minor one, which is weird because I just praise him, Tony. He was almost perfectly written, up until Eilis finds out Rose (Fiona Glascott) dies and she must go home. Tony, while comforting and supportive of her decision to return home to say goodbye, he has this scene where he admits to her that he’s scared of losing her: in that if she goes home, she won’t come back. That kind of got an eye-twitch out of me because, if it were me writing the character, he would instead just full-on support her going home and try to figure out how to get her there faster. He could still be scared of all of that, but subtlety would have been preferred in this regard. Focus on the eyes, hold a shot on a remorseful face, admit it to someone else later on, but never let her see that regret. And even if Eilis does stay there, it’s for the best. That’s her home, that’s where her family is, that’s where her life was, and many opportunities will eventually open up for her. What kind of boyfriend wouldn’t be supportive of her decision to stay. Obviously, it would end in heartbreak, which is obviously not where the story ended up, but that’s the tweak I would have made. The rest of the story is fine.

***

 

***

 

***END SPOILERS***

This is definitely one of the better films to hit the cinemas this year. Might not be my favorite, but it’s certainly a wonderful romance tale with some powerful acting by Ronan, a great and funny supporting cast to keep the movie entertaining, it’s an emotional powerhouse that’s well worth the admission and highly recommended.

My honest rating for BROOKLYN: a strong 4/5

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CAROL (transfer) review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. What a powerhouse team up. Both women are fantastic actresses and their names alone would be enough to get me into the theater as well as the incessant declaration that this movie was in the running for being the best movie of the year helped a little. Of course, I’m going to take a minute to let my primordial-man to come out, so picture me with a club over my shoulder, dragging my knuckles on the ground, and building a fire in a cave: “pretty naked ladies kissing makes Daniel happy inside.” And that’s it. No more. Back to being a strong-willed human. So, is the movie as fantastic as everyone’s been saying?

Starring: Cate Blanchett (SONG TO SONG [2017], ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE [2007], ELIZABETH [1998], and upcoming films THOR: RAGNAROK [2017] and OCEAN’S EIGHT [2018]) and Rooney Mara (A GHOST STORY [2017], HER [2013], YOUTH IN REVOLT [2009], and the upcoming MARY MAGDALENE [2018])

Support: Kyle Chandler (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA [2016], THE KINGDOM [2007], KING KONG [2005], and upcoming films FIRST MAN [2018] and GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS [2019]) and Sarah Paulson (REBEL IN THE RYE [2017], THE SPIRIT [2008], WHAT WOMEN WANT [2000], and upcoming films THE POST [2018] and OCEAN’S EIGHT)

Director: Todd Haynes (I’M NOT THERE. [2007] and the upcoming WONDERSTRUCK [2017]). Writer: Phyllis Nagy (theatrical film debut; congrats, miss). Composer: Carter Burwell (GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN [2017], NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN [2007], FARGO [1996], and upcoming films WONDERSTRUCK and THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI [2017]). Cinematographer: Edward Lachman (WIENER-DOG [2016], I’M NOT THERE., SELENA [1997], and the upcoming WONDERSTRUCK)

(SUMMARY)

It’s the 1950s, and the story follows a young woman named Therese (Rooney Mara) who almost instantly falls for an older woman named Carol (Cate Blanchett), who is in the middle of divorcing her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), whom she has fallen out of love with despite his fighting for his marriage. Carol is, however, incredibly loving to her daughter Rindy (twins: Sadie and Kk Heim). As their relationship blossoms, and Therese’s own unhappy heterosexual relationship begins to crumble, Carol and Therese leave town together and begin a passionate affair. But as Harge’s desperation grows, he goes to extreme measures to keep his family together at any cost.

(REVIEW)

Thank fucking God, I’ve been going absolutely insane with the Netflix movie’s I’ve been watching lately, I NEEDED this movie. While I might not agree that this is the BEST picture of the year, it does certainly have a lot going for it. Admittedly, my main problems with the film are purely nitpicks.

You know what, let’s get those out of the way before going into what’s great.

The beginning just really felt really pretentious. Therese works in a… high end toy store I guess and is constantly surrounded by dolls and toy sets, even lingering on a shot of her with a toy set. I can only assume that this was done as additional character contrast between her and Carol… which is pretty unnecessary, the age difference and style of clothing summed it up enough. No need to hammer it more into our minds.

Now, before I get into the next plot-point that I wanted to address, I want to make something clear to everyone. I will not be pointing this out because of some segregation toward the homosexual community. I think it’s about time that America evolved a bit with legalizing gay marriage. I do not care if you are gay. I care about whether or not you are a good person who tries to do right, and is respectful toward me and others. In turn, I will be a good and respectful person toward, and do right by, you. I have always and forever will treat everybody equally.

So, on to my biggest problem with the film, and this is even commented on in the movie, “You barely know her!” Yeah… that’s a good point. This was basically the “love at first sight” cliché. Literally, Carol walks into the store and Therese is just FIXATED on her. How long have you been out in the real world, woman? What, have NO other attractive women passed by in the store. Somehow Carol is the hot woman to end all hot women? She’s gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree with her eventual feelings, but it’s the kickstart that I take issue with. I think it’s nice of Therese to mail Carol’s gloves back to her, but she literally just asked her out to dinner with very minimal interaction when the two first met. She’s still a stranger and she barely put up resistance to saying yes to having dinner with her. Remember when I said “equal treatment?” Well, how would it look if Therese was being asked out by a guy? In real life, a woman could easily feel uncomfortable and VERY easily make a declaration of the guy being a stalker or creepy. Why does Carol get a pass for being a lesbian? I disagree with this cliché no matter who the characters are.

But I’ve ranted about these nitpicks long enough. Time to rave about what’s good.

Blanchett is PHENOMENAL. She delivers a performance that is beautifully nuanced and powerful. Carol is a wonderfully confident character and isn’t afraid to speak her mind, but not unaware of the idea that certain things shouldn’t be said. She’s careful, but not paranoid. She knows what she wants, but also isn’t unaware of her limited influence, especially compared to her bully of a husband, Harge. This might be my favorite performance by Blanchett, which is saying something because the nerd inside me LOVES her as Galadriel from the Lord of the Rings franchise.

Mara’s no different. I have to express my absolute delight that PAN (2015) didn’t make a dent in her career. I guess being in a Fincher film will do that to a person’s career, and it’s not like anyone really saw PAN to begin with (myself excluded, I know, shut up). In any case, I’m ecstatic to see her in a role that showcases her acting at its finest. Therese is so wide-eyed and innocent, but she’s no push-over either. She’s uncertain of her sexuality, but knows she doesn’t live in a society that can accept who she is, or is even certain if she herself accepts who she is. But there’s genuine empathy when you see Therese interact with Carol and how free and happy she really is with her.

Of course, when reality sets in and circumstances tear them apart, you feel their anguish, making it truly awful to see the two of them unhappy. What an accomplishment to be this consistently moving to yank at every emotional string I have.

I want to say that I can overlook the logic of the film, as I do believe it could have been easily remedied with at least five minutes to illustrate a passage of time so a glorified road-trip could be more plausible. But the presence of such a cliché prevents it from being truly great. Having said that, the performances themselves and just how visceral the movie is prevents it from being more than just “good.” I may not agree that it’s the best movie of the year, but I do say it’s one of the best.

My honest rating for CAROL: a strong 4/5

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THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US quick review

Should Kate Winslet just stop traveling in the company of men? She always finds herself royally screwed in some way. Luxury cruise ships, airplanes… or maybe… she’s the problem? *pondering* Maybe men should stop traveling with her… hmm…

Boy howdy have I been seeing this trailer and a certain level of anticipation always bites at me when I see it. I love Winslet and I… well, I never watched any of Idris Elba’s most celebrated TV shows (IE: LUTHER [2010 – 2018]), but I have seen the Thor movies and I rather enjoy him in those, so I’m down to see these two work off of each other.

Here’s the cast. As previously mentioned, starring, we have Kate Winslet (COLLATERAL BEAUTY [2016], REVOLUTIONARY ROAD [2008], TITANIC [1997], and the upcoming AVATAR 2 [2020]) and Idris Elba (THE DARK TOWER [2017], PROMETHEUS [2012], 28 WEEKS LATER [2007], and upcoming films MOLLY’S GAME [2017] and THOR: RAGNAROK [2017]). In support, we have Beau Bridges (THE DESCENDANTS [2011], MAX PAYNE [2008], and TV show BLOODLINE [2015 – 2017]) and Dermot Mulroney (SLEEPLESS [2017], GEORGIA RULE [2007], and MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING [1997]).

Now for the crew. Directing is Hany Abu-Assad, known for foreign projects that I’ve never seen or heard of. Co-writing the screenplay are J. Mills Goodloe (EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING [2017], THE AGE OF ADALINE [2015], and THE BEST OF ME [2014]) and Chris Weitz (STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE [2016], THE GOLDEN COMPASS [2007], and ANTZ [1998]). Composing the score is Ramin Djawadi, known for THE GREAT WALL (2017), CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010), and BLADE: TRINITY (2004). Finally, the cinematographer is Mandy Walker, known for HIDDEN FIGURES (2016), RED RIDING HOOD (2011), AUSTRALIA (2008), and the upcoming MULAN (2019).

Overall, I know early ratings aren’t being too kind to this film, but… I can’t help it, I like the core stars, it looks like it’s got some chilling moments, and I ain’t just talking about that snow, I don’t know, I think I might like it.

This is my honest opinion of: THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US

(SUMMARY)

Alex (Kate Winslet) and Ben (Idris Elba) are two strangers who meet at an airport. A storm is approaching and their respective flight was cancelled. Alex knows how to get in touch with a pilot, Walter (Beau Bridges), who is willing to fly her to her destination and upon overhearing that they have the same destination, she offers him a ride. However, en route, Walter suffers a stroke and their plane crashes. Stranded with limited food and supplies, they venture out into vast, punishingly cold and unforgiving wilderness to find help and their way back home.

(QUICK REVIEW)

Mmph… while I won’t necessarily argue the negative reviews, I don’t think I agree.

Let’s tackle the problems first. For one thing, the set-up is pretty forced. Basically, what you saw in the trailer, two strangers meeting and she offers to help him along since they share a common destination, that moment in the trailer isn’t any different than in the movie. Look, even the best of samaritans have a knack for walking past people with problems, even if they have problems that they could technically help with. But things like hitching a ride with you on an airplane, that’s pretty out there. There’s no real reason for them to meet like they do. It’s just… he’s on the phone, she overhears, she offers that ride, and he accepts. Cue the plot. That simple.

I also knew the problem would be the romance in the film, and it gets pretty painful, especially in the last fifteen minutes. For one thing, I’m not sure how realistic I would find it. Alex is married, to a wonderful man according to her later in the film, and just because Ben, who is beyond emotionally unavailable, is a fellow survivor of a plane crash, they have a romantic connection? Especially with Alex. She’s got all this optimism about making it off the mountain alive, so why would she even have urges like that? Ben, I could understand, possibly, but not Alex. The romance is pretty forced.

***SPOILERS***

 

***

 

***

In retrospect, a forced romance can still be good if the chemistry is enough to hold the relationship together. However, nothing excuses the completely different movie that takes over. Now we have this horrible melodrama involving the two characters now separated into their respective lives, but can’t stop thinking about each other. He’s been a dick and not calling her back because he thinks she’s a married woman. She doesn’t get married to Mark (Dermot Mulroney), visits Ben in London, and after a heart-to-heart in a restaurant, they decide to part ways. But in about the cheesiest crap that this movie could have possibly inserted, as the characters walk away, they start crying, and then AT THE SAME TIME, turn back around and run toward each other and leap into their arms. Oh… my god, I think movies from the 1950’s would have called this moment trite!

***

 

***

 

***END SPOILERS***

But it’s not all bad.

Elba and Winslet are both pretty solid. When their scenes require them to be at odds with each other, you feel that tension. When he gets upset with her decisions, you believe he’s an asshole. And when she believes that she’s not dying on this mountain, you legitimately want her to get out of this alive. So while their romantic chemistry isn’t believable, their chemistry as a pair of survivors is solid. The cinematography is gorgeous to look at, the death-defying scenes are tense, and certain resolutions by the end feel natural enough.

What would I have changed? Well, I would probably have Alex and Ben have some sort of chemistry before she offers that plane ride with her. Like, they both stood in line at the airport front desk, or at the bar and had a basic, nothing conversation. Just something to establish some kind of relationship, weak as it ultimately is anyway. Get rid of the obvious romance and make it a little bit more subtle, more like a “will they or won’t they” scenario and leave the emotions ambiguous to interpretation. Oh, and get rid of that last ten fifteen minutes when they’re at home, or make it incredibly brief.

Overall, the movie’s okay, leaning more toward the bad side. It’s not devoid of good things in it, but it’s not enough to elevate it very high. It’s not a good movie. I may not agree with current ratings, scores, and reviews that trash it, but I don’t plan on defending the film either. The set-up is contrived, the ending is a mountain of cheese, and the romance in the middle isn’t compelling. But the acting is good, the scenery is gorgeous, and it’s got its visceral moments. It could have been worse, but it could have been a lot better. Not the worst watch, but I’m not recommending it. At best, a rental.

My honest rating for THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US: a weak 3/5

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THE FOREIGNER review

Jackie Chan versus James Bond. Battle of the century, yo!

It’s about time that this movie came out. I was starting to wonder if this movie was just a hoax trailer to make us think that Chan was back in action, but thankfully, dreams do come true and patience is a virtue… though, seriously, why can’t “hurry the f**k up” be a virtue.

The story looks like it’s about a man whose daughter is killed in a terrorist bombing. The government agent investigating the attack refuses to disclose the identity of the bombers, so the man goes on a revenge trip all on his own.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have the living legend, Jackie Chan (THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE [2017], THE KARATE KID [2010], THE TUXEDO [2002], and upcoming films RUSH HOUR 4 and SHANGHAI DAWN, both have no announced release date) and Pierce Brosnan (THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK [2017], MAMMA MIA! [2008], ROBINSON CRUSOE [1997], and the upcoming MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN [2018]). In support, we have Katie Leung, known for T2 TRAINSPOTTING (2017), and Harry Potters THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 (2011) and THE GOBLET OF FIRE (2005).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Martin Campbell, known for GREEN LANTERN (2011), and 007s CASINO ROYALE (2006), and GOLDENEYE (1995). Penning the screenplay is David Marconi, known for LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (2007) and ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998). Composing the score is Cliff Martinez, known for WAR DOGS (2016), THE LINCOLN LAWYER (2011), and SOLARIS (2002). Finally, the cinematographer is David Tattersall, known for DEATH NOTE (2017), NEXT (2007), and CON AIR (1997).

Overall, I think this is going to be awesome. I mean, Jackie Chan! How can you go wrong?!

This is my honest opinion of: THE FOREIGNER

(SUMMARY)

Quan (Jackie Chan) is a restaurant owner living in London. His daughter Fan (Katie Leung) is about to buy a dress, but almost immediately after dropping her off, a bomb goes off, taking the lives of several people, including Fan. The group claiming responsibility calls themselves the “Authentic IRA.” Desperate for the identities of the men responsible, he calls the government several times, but can’t get an answer, especially from a former IRA member now career government agent, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan). When it becomes clear that Quan won’t get answers the polite way, he starts making threats for the names.

(REVIEW)

And… it’s not as good as I’d have hoped. Having said that, it was a pretty sweet ride. Or at least, parts of it were. Sounds all over the map, doesn’t it? Well, that’s kind of the movie.

Good stuff first. Chan is, as per usual, too awesome for words. Quan is presented like a grieving father. An almost frail old man who persists in finding answers, specifically the names of those responsible for his daughter’s death. This is actually something of a question mark that I have about the movie. I know Chan is in his sixties, but there are those moments where he stands up from sitting in a chair, and he looks slow. Was this deliberate? Because he’s still doing his own stunts, fast during the chase and fight scenes. I guess it would make sense, so he can maximize the damage he causes while being underestimated. Or maybe he was just really sore that day of shooting and it showed on screen accidentally. Either way, bad ass. I especially love this scene after Quan’s daughter’s death where he’s just in her room, looking around at her things. He doesn’t say a word, but what really got me was him holding this teddy bear of hers. The final shot of the scene is him sitting on her bed, contemplating his next move while grieving, and there’s this really subtle moment where as he holds on to the bear’s leg, it starts to slip out of his grasp. My immediate thought was that the bear would plummet to the ground, but it never does. The scene eventually cuts to the next one. Maybe I’m reading too into it, but I swear this was Quan’s breaking point, symbolic of him trying to move on, but can’t let go, signifying the next choice to exact revenge. Maybe I’m the only one who saw something in that moment, but I really liked it.

As a result, all of Chan’s action scenes are really fun too. The fight scene on the roof of his hide-out and setting off his traps in the woods when Liam’s goons go hunting for him. I’m still cringing at the guy that stepped into that hole with protruding nails. Oh! Oh, and the fight between Quan and Sean (Rory Fleck Byrne) was a whole lot of fun! What do you think goes through an actor or stuntman’s mind when he realizes he’s going to get in a fight with Jackie Chan? Do you think they even bothers with signing a contract? “Wait, Jackie Chan is going to kick my ass? I’ll do it for free!”

I know this is an adaptation of a novel, but I feel like there’s some missed opportunity here. Like I said in my opening line, it’s Jackie Chan versus James Bond! Why is this not cooler than it sounds?! Nearly every confrontation the two men have with each other is all about talking. Seriously, Brosnan doesn’t throw a single punch Chan’s way. I know, I know, that’s the character. He’s not a fighter anymore, but rather a power hungry and politically ambitious asshole. At his core, he’s a coward. But damn it, why would you put a former Bond in that role?! This should have been an extravaganza of kung fu versus gun fu!

The movie is also unfocused, or at least, the focus isn’t where it should be. I couldn’t say if this was an action movie with political intrigue, or a political thriller with some action. Actually, now that I’ve written it out, it’s an action movie with political intrigue. Something along the lines of the Bourne films. But here’s why the Bourne films work as action-political thrillers as opposed to this. The politics are kept simple. Bourne was assigned to kill a political figure who was a threat to America, but failed in his assignment. The “how” and “why” this figure was a threat is barely explored because the movie knew that the focus was on Jason Bourne and rediscovering his identity after succumbing to retrograde amnesia. Here, the focus should be on Quan and him getting revenge on the terrorists who killed his daughter, but far too much screen time is on the politics. Hell, the movie has the balls to go a solid fifteen to twenty minutes without Chan’s face on screen. Um… fuck you too, movie! I want to see Quan beat a fucker up with a lamp and kick the shit out of bitches a third of his age with his bare hands! I don’t care what the Authentic IRA’s motivations are! They detonated a bomb killing a dozen people, one of them being Quan’s daughter! Motivations and directed anger established! Awe hell, wouldn’t it have been even cooler if Chan and Brosnan teamed up at the end, storming the terrorist hide-out and kicking ass together?! GAH!!! But because we don’t get anything that exciting, the movie isn’t always engaging. Brosnan certainly tries to make his character work with a solid performance from him, but a political underling trying to maintain control of his power isn’t very interesting, and because this movie thinks that it is, there’s a disconnect between it and the audience.

Other problems include some questionable character choices, like when a henchman hears suspicious noises, he doesn’t radio in for more back-up than the one guy within ear shot of his voice. Weird direction, like when the barn is blown up by Quan and Mary (Orla Brady) has almost zero reaction to how close that explosion was to her. Stuff like that sticks out too.

Objectively speaking, this movie probably isn’t very good, and it definitely isn’t very interesting. But so long as Chan is on screen kicking ass and the bad guys have befuddled expressions on how this aged martial artist can get the better of them no matter how amped up the security gets, then the movie has enough excitement to carry you through a single viewing. I won’t really argue anyone who says this movie isn’t good, but I’ll still be on the side of those that enjoyed themselves just enough. If you’re a fan of Chan and Brosnan, check this out as a matinee screening, or a strong recommendation as a rental if it’s not in theaters anymore. Keep your expectations low though. It’s not a brawl of epic proportions between the two stars. But there’s just enough action to keep you watching and knowing that Jackie Chan is here to stay.

My honest rating for THE FOREIGNER: a strong 3/5

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