Don’t Breathe

Few movies these days truly deserve to be called a thriller. The plots can be predictable and the action scenes can come off too choreographed. As far as the new movie ‘Don’t Breathe’ is concerned, thriller is the only way to term it.

Rocky is a young girl trying to make her way in a depressed part of Michigan. She has no money and a boozy mom who is sponging off of her. The only way she makes any money is by breaking in and robbing people with her friends Money and Alex. One day Money comes to them with the chance to rob a house that may be holding over $300,000. Enough for Rocky to escape with Alex and her little sister to someplace better. The trio embark on the biggest score of their lives, maybe a little over confident since the man they are robbing is not only a loner, but also  blind as a bat. They go in thinking it’s going to be a push over, but things quickly turn and it’s clear they have bitten off much more than they can chew.

From the minute they get into the house, the tension starts to rise and it just keeps going from there. You will literally be on the edge of your seat as they find escaping from the blind man’s home proves to be far more of a challenge than they thought it would be. Not for a moment do you believe they are safe or anything is fixed. The action unfolds fast and with unrelenting pace. Just when you think you see the light at the end of the tunnel, something comes along to block it out. You won’t be able to breathe as all your breath will be taken away in this claustrophobic thriller. There are twists and turns you do not see coming. It is without a doubt one of the best thrillers I have seen this year and something very special is going to have to come along to impress me more than this film did.

Audience: A little worse than what I’ve gotten used to lately. First, some kid and his father brought  in some take out food that stunk to high heaven and a few rows up, there were some people who seemed to forget they were in a theater with other people as they weren’t shy about speaking at their normal voice level. Let’s not forget the whisperers in the  back who spent  most of the movie trying to predict what was going to happen next, only after commenting on what had just happened. Thankfully as the  movie really got into gear, everyone shut up because the tension of the movie was so real. Thumbs down for this audience, but up for the movie.

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Jason Bourne

Matt Damon returns to the role of Jason Bourne for the fourth outing in the franchise. I read that he refused to be part of the project unless Paul Greengrass returned to directing. Well, he got his wish and Jason Bourne rides again.

The movie opens with Jason living off the grid and just going from one fight club to the next and being invisible. His animosity doesn’t last long when his past catches up to him and soon he finds himself embroiled in a plot to eliminate a tech mogul on the eve of a new product that supposedly opens up your life on the web, but at the same time protecting your privacy.

I have never been a fan of the Bourne films. I actually fell asleep during one of them. This film follows form with the previous films in that for an action movie, it is dreadfully boring. In the beginning there is a lot of tech talk and lots of scenes of people clicking on things on screens. When there are action sequences, the camera closes in and it’s difficult to tell what is going on exactly until the end of the fight. The story itself is basic and seems like it should be easy to follow but the scenes just drag on and you start to lose track of what’s going on from one scene to the next. If you like deep cover black 0ps kind of stuff, this is the movie for you.

Matt Damon is in top form as Jason as he runs, jumps and generally kicks ass whenever it’s called for and there are some chase scenes that will definitely keep you awake. It helps if you have seen the previous films to fully understand where the characters are in their lives and why everyone seems to mess their pants at the sound of Jason Bourne’s name. A lot of old stuff is brought back. This was a well put together  production no question, but for all the money that was poured into it, I would have hoped they could have made something a bit more stimulating.

Audience: For the most part, the audience was well behaved, however there was this one guy behind me who brought his kids and it was clear they were way too young to find any entertainment in this movie. They were constantly chattering and getting up and down from their seats. I particularly loved how when they left the auditorium they were clever enough to crawl  below the screen to the exit on the opposite side of the theater, instead of simply using the exit on the other side, which would not have bothered anyone. What are parents teaching kids these days?

Florence Foster Jenkins

Picture it. New York. 1944 and a certain Mrs. Florence Foster Jenkins is an aging yet bubbly socialite with a great passion for music yearns to be as close to that world as she can be. She has for years been a passionate benefactor to the musical community of New York. She lives and breathes music and that love of music seems to have kept her alive well past expectancy. Her husband is a former actor who is devoted to her dreams, but due to circumstances, he maintains a separate address and lives with a younger girlfriend while he tends to and indulges his wife.

One night, Florence decides she wants to sing again and just like that she secures a voice coach and a young pianist to accompany her. The only problem is Madam Foster cannot sing to save her life. For all the passion she puts into it, the poor dear just doesn’t have the pipes. Her husband proves his devotion in how he makes sure not a single scrap of negative criticism falls upon her head. He bribes and influences anyone and everyone he can to keep her dream alive, which becomes increasingly difficult as her dreams get bigger and bigger with every passing day.

Based on the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the story is full of humor and heart and Meryl Streep brings such conviction to her role, you can’t help but fall in love with Madam Jenkins. She may not be able to sing, but her spirit and boundless joy for music is infectious. How can you not root for the old gal? Hugh Grant also turns in an incredible performance as Florence’s husband. I feel like there may have been more detail to their story and the movie may have merely hinted at some things, but it’s such a joy to watch and experience it’s hardly a consideration. A real stand out is Simon Helberg as Cosme McMoon, Madam Foster’s pianist. He’s a far cry from Howard Wolowitz from the Big Bang Theory, as many will recognize him, and as timid as he may seem it’s thrilling to see him go on this incredible journey with Madam Foster and you see how her contagious spirit endears her to others.

A great movie with a great cast. Lighter than the average ‘based on a true story’ fare and I think that is to its credit. The film spares no expense in transporting you back to 1940’s New York. It brings the glitz and charm of the bygone era back to our hearts, even if it was only a world seen by the rich and priveleged. It truly is a movie that will transport you and you will wish you could have been there to see the real Florence Foster Jenkins, but I think this movie is the next best thing.

Audience: The audience was rather small for this presentation and they were very well behaved. It was made up of mostly older women. They drove me a little nuts during the trailers since they all felt they needed to verbally react to each trailer, but once the movie started, everyone was very respectful.

Justice League Vs. Teen Titans

This is unusual and will be short. I just felt the need to express an opinion about the animated direct-to-video movie “Justice League vs. Teen Titans”. It basically is a sequel to the animated feature ‘War’ which picks up the animated New 52 universe. The Justice League is a power to be reckoned with but there’s a problem. Batman’s new Robin partner, Damian, is not really a team player. In fact he’s a little @$$hole to be honest. In order to get him to learn teamwork, he is put in with the Teen Titans, led by Starfire. Robin meets all the members, but seems to clash the most with the mysterious Raven. After that, it’s pretty much a retread of the whole Trigon story they have done in Teen Titans since the day it was conceived. Basically, an extra dimensional demon tries to take over the world using the Justice League and the Teen Titans are the only ones standing in Trigon’s way.

First, I did like the movie. It was well animated. To be honest, it looked a lot better than the recently released ‘Killing Joke’ movie, which I reviewed previously. Check it out. It’s more an anime style but it has some good action sequences and is a fairly good story. What I did NOT like about it was Damian Wayne. I have hated this character since the day he showed up in Batman comics. He’s an insufferable brat who thinks he’s better than everyone else, including Batman himself. He’s obnoxious, entitled and an all around nightmare yet, DC seems determined to shove him down our throats. I was around when Jason Todd was killed by reader poll. I had heard the reason was readers found the character Jason Todd annoying. I have read some issues from the Jason Todd years, and he was no where as annoying as Damian. In fact, Jason was a pleasure compared to Damian. They had killed Damian off a few years ago and I thought ‘whew!’ but alas, they brought him back and I guess he’s here to stay. Sad. So, Yes to the movie, no to Damian. If you can cut him out and also ignore the horrendous music that is played in this movie, you’ll have a good time. I suggest getting it used at a low price. Not worth 19.99

Audience: I was watching it at home alone, so the audience was incredible!

Sausage Party

Very rarely do adults get an animated film, but when they do, it really is for adults. That is the case with ‘Sausage Party’ opening this week. Starring Seth Rogen as a hot dog wiener and Kristen Wiig as a hot dog bun who are in love and yearn for when they are selected by the gods and taken to the hereafter where they can finally be together. After a terrible shopping cart accident, they are separated from their package mates and are left to fend for themselves in the grocery store. They are on a quest to get back ‘home’ but along the way, the wiener decides to find out the truth about the hereafter and what he discovers is horrifying.

This  movie the minds behind ‘Neighbors’ and ‘This Is The End’ ply their skills to the animated film genre and have come up with something that will have your mouth stuck open the entire time. Either from laughing or just in amazement that anyone could think of doing such things to food. Under the cutesy veneer of an animated tale, there is a rather spot on metaphor for religion and faith and how the world’s belief systems work, and clash, with each other. Lots of food puns await, natch. It really is a movie that had me wondering how it could possibly end, which was one reason I wanted to see it. I mean, the characters are food. How could it possibly end well for them? It was like a mix of any R-rated film with Toy Story. At first it seems rather banal and you think the only gag is having cute characters cussing a blue streak, but they delve deep later and there is a real spark of intelligence behind the gags, even the low brow ones. I will say that it is evident that the writers of this film had to have been under the influence of weed while they wrote this thing, because for as many moments of crystal clarity there are, there are moments when you have no idea what the fudge is going on. Needless to say, this movie will make you laugh, even against your better judgment. And be warned, even an R rated animated movie has a song and get this, it was by Alan Menken! Not what I would expect of him, but it goes to show you we all have to blow off a little steam now and then.

Audience: I was surprised once more. The audience was quiet for the whole movie. I don’t get it. Make a movie where a anthropomorphic hot dog may drop an ‘F’ bomb and  the whole room stays quiet to heat it. There was a little chatter behind me, but after a while I was laughing too much to care.

Failure

Oh, the thoughts that run through my brain. It’s endless. Once upon a morning drive I was thinking about the status of my writing career. Something that’s on my mind a lot. I realize that I can’t do anything else. I hate every job I get. It’s not that they are  bad jobs, they just aren’t what I want to do. No job is. I want to be a writer. That’s all I want to be and I won’t apologize for that. I know there are millions out there with that same dream and I can’t say that my wishes are more or less important than theirs. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about a singular vision and focus that I’ve never had in my life until I started writing.

I think the biggest tragedy over the failure of my writing is that I haven’t failed at it. I am a good writer. I have written scripts, novels, stage plays, commercials, short stories, ad copy, etc. and I have gotten enough feedback and reviews that tell me I am indeed good. I may not be the best, but I think if I had more of the world’s attention, I would be up among the top sellers. I want to be a writer and I am a good writer, but I am a failure and only because I failed at promoting.

I know that so many people say that today’s writers NEED to be promoters. I say bull$hit to that. Writers write and promoters promote. Sound like two different things to me. I am a writer. A  pure, old school writer. I write. I tell stories. I create characters. I plot. I scheme. After all of that work I am expected to take up the task of promoting as well? In case you haven’t ever looked into it, promoting is a whole over full time job and beyond. I just hate it that I am a failed writer not because I failed at writing, but because I failed at something I never wanted to do ever. I’m not a promoter. I never wanted to be one. It’s not who I am. It’s not a skill you can just  pick up. These people who promote are super skilled and are capable of things you can’t even imagine. New respect for them. It’s a thankless job, much like writing, and is not something just anyone can do. If I could afford to pay someone to do it for me, I would. Maybe one day I can learn enough to find some minor success but I doubt it. I’ve always been the one who gets ignored. I don’t have what one would call a magnetic personality. I’ve always been the ‘invisible man’. It seems no matter what I say no one hears. My numbers on FB are pathetic. I could say or write the most interesting/funny thing in the world and it would be like it never happened. If the universe is ignoring anyone, it would be me.

 

Nine Lives

Nine Lives, the new fantasy family comedy, has been getting a lot of bad press and I was unsure about seeing it, even though I was excited about seeing it when I first heard about it. I love cats and I thought this would be a hoot and a half!

The movie is directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, a name I haven’t heard attached to a film in a long time, and his trademark camera work is clearly identified. The story focuses on Tom Brand (Kevin Spacey) an egotistical billionaire poised to build the world’s largest skyscraper in New York. He’s a success, but it has come at a cost. He spends 23 hours a day working and his family with his second wife and their daughter, Rebecca, take a back seat. On the eve of Rebecca’s 11th birthday, she has a request. She wants a cat. Tom hates cats, but despite himself he sees the only way to make her happy is to get her a cat. He finds himself at a out of the way pet store that seems to only have cats. The shopkeeper (Christopher Walken) is ominous and seems to know more than he lets on as he sets Tom up with a new cat. Tom rushes off on a business call and after a tragic accident, he winds up in the hospital. At least his body does, his mind is instead transferred into the cat, Mr. Fuzzypants.

Tom’s adjustment to his new body takes some time, but he gets the hang soon enough and uses his diminutive stature to win back his family and save his company from a scheming CEO (Mark Consuelos). Spacey excels in his sarcasm as Tom. When he sounds pleased with anyone, you know the hammer is about to drop any moment. It seems to be his niche. Cheryl Hines shines as Tom’s first wife who comes into rather tepid material to add a little spice as best she can.

Most of the films humor comes from a few slapstick set pieces surrounding the cat and his activities and are amusing but nothing Earth shattering. I have to admit, the CGI for the cat in parts was quite good; or as good as I’ve seen since ‘Garfield’. The tone of the movie is rather boring and the humor falls flat most of the time. It’s clearly made for families/kids so I think they weren’t able to get very spicy with it. I think the harshest swear word I heard was ‘Jesus’. Jennifer Garner plays Lara, Tom’s second wife and she works her mom mojo very well. I wanted to like this movie much more, but as a comedy it wasn’t very good, but the story was very effective and I found it to be surprisingly touching and relevant to today’s busy lifestyles. Sometimes we can get our priorities mixed up. Watching Tom reconnect with his family through the cat was heartwarming and we can see how pets need families as much as families need pets. It also shows that while cats may not be people, some people aren’t people either. As a cat lover I liked the movie, but as a movie lover, I was disappointed.

Audience: The audience was made up of mostly children and they were quiet. It was the parents who were the problem. On and off their phones for the whole movie and rummaging through the plastic bags they smuggled their snacks in. Honestly. Show a little class.