REVIEW: “SUBURBICON” (2017) Paramount Pictures

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Oh Georgie and Matty – what have you done here!!! I mean I’m all for unique and different when it comes to filmmaking, but when a ‘unique’ film does absolutely nothing to intrigue its audience, aside from being somewhat tonal with a consistent setting, then it’s not really all that impressive in the end. With “SUBURBICON”, George Clooney’s latest attempt at direction, seems to leave a lot to be desired with trying to be a little too confident in itself when it came to presenting a powerful story. As is, I still don’t really know if this was supposed to be a story of racial history, a murder mystery, or somewhere in there was supposed to be a dark comedy. I found myself completely lost at times, when I don’t think we the audience, were supposed to be.

The quick run through as best I could understand it is 1950’s/60’s suburbia (you can catch that in the courtesy of the name) the first African-American family, The Mayers (Leith M Burke, Karimah Westbrook & Tony Espinosa) move in the all-white suburban town of “Suburbicon’. Then the neighbors from the back The Gardner’s, (Matt Damon, Julianne Moore & Noah Jupe) are tested when a group of men invade his home, killing his wife and leaving only his son and sister-in-law alive (also Julianne Moore). Falling for his wife’s sister and becoming a complete psychotic and uncontrollable man, this film quickly spirals out of control into a farce of random occurrences. Throughout the first act of this film, it seems like it’s going to be a satire that won’t hold anything back in terms of wackiness, but that’s very quickly thrown out the window, compensating with many subplots of murder and conspiracy. I found myself taken out of the film when the tone would shift this often, making for a very off-putting viewing experience.

Throughout the majority of this film, you’re asked to accept the horrible things that the main characters are doing, or just connect with Gardner’s young boy on an emotional level, but he’s not quite present enough in my opinion. Not until the third act do you really find yourself caring about some of the characters, which truly at that point, didn’t matter any more. This movie tries far too hard to be clever, funny, and surprising – so hard in fact that it just comes off as forced more often than not. You will find yourself along for a ride of random events and you won’t really know who to root for, let alone what or why it’s even happening or what the correlation is. Honestly there is zero correlation between the African-American family moving in and Matt Damon’s wife getting murdered. In fact, as you watch the movie you will notice that the African-American family actually plays no significant part in the actual plot of the movie as far as you can understand that plot to be. It is as if they are just there for filler and to maybe politicize the movie in some way – I’m truly not sure as it makes no sense. What is the driving point of the ‘dark comedy/murder mystery’ aspect and taking the viewer to watching how horrible this family is being treated. It wasn’t funny then and it’s not funny now – that this still happens. But that’s a whole different movie so again, why is it even here?

I may seem to be ripping this film apart for being uneven, but for all its flaws, there are actually one or two somewhat fun sequences involving an appearance by Claims Insurance Investigator Bud Cooper (Oscar Isaac). There is a lengthy scene when secrets are revealed and characters begin to evolve and Isaac elevated every moment of this portion of the film, but it almost is like they are grasping at straws by this point. You haven’t laughed yet, so it’s hard to really rustle one up by then. Up until that point, there really weren’t any characters to grasp onto, but the environment around them, along with the sets and the score, always helped to make the film feel more authentic than what its screenplay was presenting. This may sound confusing, but that’s due to the fact that this is a very confusing watch, and I’m thinking many will agree with me on that account.

From being written by Joel and Ethan Coen, to being directed by George Clooney, ‘Suburbicon’ just feels like a huge missed opportunity, due to the talent involved. Matt Damon and Julianne Moore both don’t deliver on performances here and feel about as average as you can get.

Overall, ‘Suburbicon’ is a film that will probably leave your mind as quickly as it came as it’s just a very forgettable film.

Grade: D
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Media Review Screening: October 24, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
“SUBURBICON” will be released in theaters on Friday, October 27, 2017

REVIEW: “THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE” (2017) Universal Pictures

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Let me just start off by saying I went into this with perspective of it being a war movie. And it partially is, but it’s also so much more than just that. It’s more about post-service life for the brave men and women who make the decision to defend our country, as well as the impact it has on their spouses, children, friends, etc. It shines a harsh light on the inefficiency of the VA and how difficult it can be for veterans to receive the help – especially mental and psychological – that they desperately need.

The film, based on a true story, opens with an operation on an Iraqi street that goes horribly wrong. The exact details of the incident are rather hazy but are central to the events that will follow. A trio of soldiers, Adam Schumann (Miles Teller), Will Waller (Joe Cole), and Tausolo ‘Solo’ Aeiti (Beulah Koale), are returning home after their stressful and dangerous tours of duty. Adam returns to his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett) and their two young kids, though money worries and other domestic issues are at the forefront of their relationship and his mind. Solo returns to his wife Alea (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who wants her husband to settle down and father a child with her but he has it in his mind to return to the battlefield and be with his ‘brothers’ as according to him “The Army saved his life” and it seems that’s all he knows. And finally we have Will (Joe Cole), who returns to an empty house, his fiancé having moved out and emptied his bank accounts without a word. Though each man is a trained soldier capable of putting on a brave face, the trauma from their time on the battlefield and their attempts to get help are met by a bureaucracy that is beyond overloaded with no true help in sight.

The performances were all on par all the way around and with them the storyline was not only gut-wrenching, but kept me riveted for the entire movie. This might not be an Oscar type film, but it is going to get very high marks from me because of the subject matter and the story told. This movie is a different genre movie, not necessarily action, but not completely drama either, rather it is a movie of true passion of containing real life drama, real heart and mind, real flesh and blood taking you through it’s paces slow but steady.
I’m guessing that this movie won’t be a huge moneymaker, as I honestly I don’t see it finding a particularly large audience because fact – we’re much happier remaining ignorant to the horrors of war and the empty shells of humans that it results in. Needless to say, this film schooled me and was a true eye-opener as I left the theater with such a huge range of emotion, mostly rooted in anger and sadness and a sense of hopelessness. While I would love to think that the light it shines on its topic would result in some change, if not at least greater awareness, I doubt it will. We as Americans, have let our soldiers down. And this hasn’t just happened..its gone on for decades and something needs to be fixed in a big way. Again, sadly, not enough people will probably see this film to make a difference..but we all should. Bottom line though, it’s a great film and now it’s your turn to see it.

Grade: A
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Media Review Screening: Monday, October 23,2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE” will be in theaters nationwide on Friday, October 27, 2017

REVIEW: “THE SNOWMAN” (2017) Universal Pictures

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“THE SNOWMAN” follows Norwegian detective, Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender). Harry has been struggling with drinking and is no longer given any cases when he reluctantly returns to the police force after receiving a note warning him that more women will end up dead. This all is stemming from an old serial killer case that still haunts him. Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) is transferred from Bergen, has her own personal reasons for getting involved in the case, and Hole ends up helping her with the investigation into the sadistic serial killer.

It seems the women the killer targets kinda have a link that they all have children. Or so it first seems, but it is actually that they have children who they won’t tell or don’t know who the father is. Which all seems a little bit strange at times, but I guess links a little bit to a plot if you really think about it. You get bored with thinking about it though, as things just get messier and crazier. With so many different things going on in an attempt to confuse the viewer and make them unsure of well what is actually going on altogether to be honest. I guess that is just one of the many problems with the film as it just has to many to really count or try to filter through. Though the fact that everyone is speaking English in Norway without even a nod to note that this is a film totally and completely based and filmed in Norway, is blinding. Remember how they did this with the Americanized version of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ – and while that was no winner of a film, it would win an Oscar up against this mess of a film.

I’m not sure what else there is to say on this review except to try to find out whom is responsible for this terribly done film version of one of the creepiest books I ever read. Is it Fassbender, whom for the most part I’m such a fan of but is dead of anything bearing performance here. Is it Rebecca Ferguson whom we had such high hope for after her fantastic performance in the Mission Impossible franchise, but here is just lacking any luster in her performance. Surely not J.K. Simmons as gazillionaire businessman Arve Stop, who seems to be doing some sort of attempt at a Scandinavian lilt-meets-evil-industrialist voice thing, or a lost-looking Val Kilmer wandering through a subplot as Rafto, Katrina’s father and ex-policeman who was murdered by the killer, as they are in it for two blink-and-you-missed-it scenes – though I will point out both are featured in a much larger way in the book. Or Chloe Sevigny as identical twins or Charlotte Gainsbourg as Harry’s ex-girlfriend Rakel who also has one of the most bizarrely bland love scenes ever filmed with Fassbender. Or is it simply the overly annoying roughly 600 shots of a snowman.

Again, I read the book some years back, and still with that, I could not figure out for the life of me what was happening in this film. No two scenes really connected with each other and I guess the topper would be my guest.. who at one point I heard a small snore come from. Yep, that about sums it up. I would truly give this film an F but for the fact it has some of the most beautiful scenery and roads filming I’ve seen in some time. Made me want to leave the theater immediately and go book a ticket to Norway.

What I do know is that Martin Scorsese’s name is on the film and so is director Tomas Alfredson and they both know better.

Grade: D
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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“THE SNOWMAN” is now playing in theaters nationwide.

REVIEW: “AMERICAN MADE” (2017) Universal Pictures

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“American Made” feels like an honest-to-god Tom Cruise movie – like suddenly, his smile means something again. The man who has done truly his share of good and bad work in the past decade or so, (most recently the bad with ‘The Mummy’ ), shines in this film. Like it almost seems unthinkable after watching this film that it could have been done with anybody but Tom Cruise in the lead. These types of film remind us all, that Cruise is a really good actor and is clearly not done yet with bringing us the good stuff.

Cruise plays Barry Seal, a TWA pilot frustrated with the grind of hopping from city to city, flying planes on autopilot and coming home to crash asleep before his wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright), can even put on her welcome-home-honey lingerie. It’s the late Seventies, the era of oil fortunes being made overnight and social turmoil being the norm. Barry has also been doing some minor smuggling on the side, transporting illegal Cuban cigars into the US. Into his life pops Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson), the overly-eager-to-please-his-bosses CIA operative, who’s wanting to recruit Seal’s aerial talents to fly covert missions into Latin American countries and take spy photos of resistance movements. Not exactly telling his wife he’s actually left his job at the airline, he moves forward into his ‘new’ job as the CIA provide him with a sweet twin engine superplane, his own front company, and lots of money. Barry in complete shock as any of us would be, and can’t stop laughing in disbelief. And neither can we once you see the absolute insanity his journey takes him on. But yet, Barry Seals, was a real person and even though this film might be done up some with some dramatics I’m sure, it still really did happen.

You see what went on with Manuel Noriega (Alberto Ospino) (yes, the U.S. supported this man’s power at the time, yet eventually arrested him also – remember Imelda and the shoes 🙂 ), which then leads him to the Contras (again we supported) who it turns out are more interested in porn & alcohol than in being trained for fighting a war. So where do the guns go? Well only to the biggest cartel in the world at the time. The infamous Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia), Jorge Ochoa (Alejandro Edda) & Carlos Ledher (Fredy Yate Escobar), better known as the Medellín Cartel. Sound hard to follow – yeah maybe so – but as it really happened and with cut-aways to video-taped confessions done by Barry himself, we do follow how it went down. And there are points that you just can’t help but laugh with disbelief.

Along the way, you can’t help but feel flashbacks to Top Gun, they way that once again, Cruise handles this whole situation that is unfolding and of course the plane stunts. But it’s a good feeling – one that you makes you want more, a.k.a that Top Gun sequel that they are promising us now gives me hope. One thing is imminently clear here, Director Doug Limon has succeeded in giving us clear-eyed, in-your-face cynicism about this country and all it symbolizes not only then, but now, in bold fashion, all the while pulling Cruise back into being what we really want him to be – a good actor doing good movies.

Grade: B
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Media Review Screening: Monday, September 25, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
‘AMERICAN MADE’ is now playing in theaters nationwide