Where Does Your Passion Lie? Beauty, Emotion, and Passion Without the Cheesiness

Hey, Hey, It’s Robbie K with another movie review for the masses.  The movie of choice this time is Bradley Cooper’s latest film entitled the Words, a tale about a struggling writer that discovers a story unlike any he has read.  He’s so captivated and impressed with the story he decides to submit it to the publishers as his own work leading to a high point in his career.  However, a road block is soon hit as the original author returns and demands to confront the man who has plagiarized his work.  What will happen?

When I saw the category Drama/Romance I immediately thought I was getting another chick flick or soap opera that have seemed to flood the movie world.  Yet to my surprise, and perhaps luck, I got something else out of this film, something that many artists will appreciate more than one going for entertainment.  The Words is a film that addresses the issue of what one would do to obtain their passion and if they would go so far as to steal/cheat their way to reach their dream.  While it may seem obvious that one should not cheat, this movie shows that pressures in the world may drive even the most honest person to doing something wrong.  Unlike the cheesy, overacted dramatic scenes other dramas choose to do, The Words instead keeps the situation realistic to a pretty reasonable level.  Instead of having a wild young couple’s love conquering the struggles and getting instant success, like most chick flicks, New York’s hard knock life actually puts the couple’s fantasy love to the challenge.  Yes, that’s right the couple actually has to work out their differences and work on their relationship.  As life continues on, the struggles of the real world continue to conflict with Rory’s (Cooper) dreams of writing, despite his passion to write.  When the magical manuscript arrives, the choice of turning in the script is not instantaneous as some dramas decide to do.  Instead the film chose to show the struggles of using a meal ticket to fame, or to hold onto integrity and pay your dues.  This portrayal of man’s internal struggle is relatable, at least it was for me, and thought provoking as to what it could take to break your own morals.

As you’ve seen from the trailers, you know what his decision is.  Yet instead of then turning the drama into a chase/hide from the law while the protagonist tries to find redemption for his actions, The Words decides to dive into another area that artists will surely grab on to.  This idea is creativity and passion that everyone in the world strives to discover.  This act of having the Old Man, Jeremy Irons, tell the tale of Rory’s novel, helps to explain how such a feat was created.  It’s during this tale that a mixture of drama, romance, and inner journey was well crafted to keep the movie interesting and still emotionally stirring for me.  Rather than filling the screen with montages of romantic kisses, sunset walks, and over emphasized smiling scenes, this movie chose to keep the movie realistic as the relationship buds from friendship to true love.  While this occurs, a parallel story also develops as the Old Man’s counterpart begins to discover his desire, which he has to develop.  As events unfold, the young man continues to adapt and evolve, which for me was more interesting than any prodigal artist story until the climax of the tale unfolds.  Yet for those who do want romance, it is still in this movie, but it is not the sole focus of this movie, which may be a turn off for you.

However, no movie can really come to life without actors to play the characters the tale revolves around.  I rather enjoyed Cooper’s performance of the struggling artist, as he managed to capture the anger, frustration, love, happiness, and countless other emotions required for the part.  Unlike some of his other roles, his character had well written lines that for once weren’t infused with numerous F bombs and cursing.  Instead, Cooper actually got have some diversity in his dialog switching from casual romantic banter to soulful speeches about what drives him.  Zoe Saldana did a nice job with her role, but her character is pretty one dimensional and has very little use than a tool to drive Rory’s decisions and creative sparks.  The other actor that may have made the movie for me was Irons, the man with the gruff voice that is perfect for telling stories.  Whether he is on the screen or just telling the story, Irons puts enough emotion into his words to add a little extra emotion to the scene, without overdoing it.  For me his voice somehow managed to ensnare me in the story, and the scenes seemed to mirror the emotion he showed.

Despite the artistic appreciation of this movie, there are a few characteristics that may turn one away from this movie.  For one thing, despite the romance tag in this movie, this isn’t your typical couple cuddle movie.  While I do enjoy realistic portrayal and drama, others may be disappointed with the lack of over passionate love scenes most media like to use.  The drama in this movie is more about challenging one’s inner character, not challenging a love story.  Other weaknesses include some pointless characters, a very predictable ending, some edits to the Dennis Quaid parts, and some rather pointless characters.

To summarize this review, The Words is a well done film that is realistic and artistic at the same time.  Although I enjoyed various parts of this movie, I can’t say I would recommend this film for a theater visit for most. Instead wait for this well shot movie to hit Neflix/Redbox, then you can enjoy it in the comforts of your own home. My scores for this movie are as follows:

Romance/Drama:  8.0-8.5

Movie Overall:  6.5-7.0

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Creepy enough to Have You Open The Red Box

So comes another weekend, so comes another sprit possession movie.  This weekend the latest horror movie crawled out of the woodwork titled The Possession.  Believe it or not the title accurately represents the plot of the movie; a little girl buys a wooden box with foreign writing, opens the box, and voila becomes the victim of another spirit possession.  So now you might be thinking, if the plot is so predictable and simple, what is the point of going to see this movie?  Hopefully I can give you some information that will help you find the answer to that question, or prevent you from spending your hard earned money.  So sit back, grab a soda, and enjoy the review.

If the story is predictable in this horror movie there are really only three things to pull you into the theater to see it: the ending, the scare factor, and the delivery.  As a reviewer I will not reveal the ending, so I guess that leaves me talking about the other two categories for this review.  Let’s start with the scare factor.  Upon first glance at the trailer, the scenes they showed me had me thinking this was going to be another jump out at you scream fest that would hardly affect me.  Luckily my judgment was wrong.  The Possession focuses more on using creep factors to bring the chills to your spine.  Dark lighting, doomed cello music, scratchy violins, and other backstage editing tricks help get the goose bumps forming first, just loud enough to get your subconscious acting up, but not enough to be distracting.  As the background processes run, the visuals are the next thing to bring you into the “thrill “of the moment.  Two sights in particular did most of the freaking out for me.  The first would be the little girl’s (Natasha Calis) silent and lifeless staring throughout the movie.  Although there were times where she just looked like an angry constipated child about to scream in agony, there were countless scenes where her eyes managed to pierce into my very core.  Calis not only had the stare down though, she also managed to deliver her lines with the right emotional edge to have you believe she was really possessed.  The scared cracking, the whispering edge of sickness, and the urgency of an obsessed artifact owner were all well combined to make the possession come to life and therefore be scarier.  Perhaps the scariest image I saw though was the MRI scene.  Although fake, the design of the spirit in her body and the moment of the scene made me shiver a little bit.  What really creeped me out the most though, was the spirits voice.  Unlike other movies that have used deep voices that mimic James Earl Jones, or primal roars that sound like the werewolf, The Possession focused more on the quiet whispering approach.  The voice was just loud enough to reach your ears from the box, and even when she got louder, it still remained silent enough to make skin craw because you had no idea what she was planning to do next.

As for the delivery, well the movie used one of my favorite techniques to keep the movie interesting enough to sit through.  Bornedal and his team decided to let your imagination do most of the visualizing for what the spirit looked like.  Only her menacing voice and the occasional glimpse of the spirit’s appendages gives one a slight foundation as to what she should look like, which results in your imagination painting a pretty gruesome picture.  Even the MRI only sheds a little more light, only helping to fuel your imagination more and further creep you out.  It isn’t until the ending of the movie that you finally get to see the real mage of the spirit, and for me well my imagination was a little more gruesome than what we saw.  Despite this illusive image though, another thing that helped deliver the scare factor was the setting of the movie.  Unlike some of the recent slasher and massacre movies, the setting of this movie is more normalized than the isolated wood/facility settings.  Thus the realism to the movie and the fact it is happening in a well-populated town help bring a little more chills to your spine.  However, there are a few scenes that still fall under the cheesy horror formula (i.e. someone staying at a building by themselves late, or following the possessed into a dark hall.)  These shots are rather predictable and were not that scary to me.  Perhaps what I liked best about Bornedal’s direction though was that he limited the number of jump out scenes in the movie, and only used them at the right timing.  Yes most of them are predictable to see coming, but there are a few that may just surprise you and make you jump.

The Possession definitely delivers the scares and chills the director intended it to.  With a realistic setting, creepy use of sound, video, and imagination, and proper timing, this movie should give you goose bumps long after the credits roll.  Despite the fantastic delivery though, there is not enough in this movie to help it stand out from most of the other horror movies in this category.  Is it worth a trip to the theaters?  Horror wise I think so, but I feel it could be creepier if you’re watching it in your home where you might get an extra terror factor in.  My scores for The Possession are the following:

Horror/Thriller: 7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5

Moonshine Kingdom

Who would have thought that Shia LaBeouf would have had such the career he has had?  I know when I saw him on Even Stevens so many years ago, I never dreamed he would make it past Disney, but here he is three transformers, disturbia, and an Indiana Jones movie later and still making more films.  The newest notch to his belt is this week’s latest drama, entitled Lawless, a tale about the moonshine conspiracy in Franklin County.  From the trailers I got very little about what this movie had to offer, so going into the theater I had no clue what to expect, other than Shia shouting his head off.  What did my trip into the dark theater world reward me with?  Read on as I share my thoughts on the Moonshine Kingdom world that is Lawless.

To start this review off, I scoped IMDB for the cast today and realized that there were a lot of big name actors participating in this movie.  Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Jessica Chastain and many more filled this film to the brim with star power.  Now if you’re like me, movies that are jammed with celebrities are usually shallow, fragmented plots that pretty much stink to the very core.  Not this movie my friends.  Rather than attempting to give all of the actors their fair share of screen time, director John Hillcoat focused on keeping the story fluent, developing the characters, and bringing the moonshine forest to life.  Although some of my favorites like Gary Oldman have a fraction of the screen time from others, they have enough involvement or scene stealing moments to drive the story and make their performance memorable.  Outside of these minor roles though, the casting crews picks were surprisingly spot on in this movie.  To my surprise, Labeouf did a fantastic job with this movie, trading in the silly, arrogant, wisecracking Sam and actually having a three dimensional character with a wide range of involvement.  The heroic journey his character took in this movie, force Labeouf to play many parts that I doubted he could play, such as a powerful smuggler, a hapless romantic, and a vengeful spirit.  Yes he still likes to scream loud, but this time his rants have more gusto, purpose and drive behind them than his calling for robotic cars to save his butt.  Helping to drive Labeouf’s character development is Hardy.  The British actor again amazed me as he somehow adapted a country, red neck accent that seemed to be as natural as half of my friends from high school.  Accent aside, Hardy did a nice job playing this keystone character, managing to still use his tough guy stature to be threatening, but also softening up to show a gentler side.  If you were a fan of his dynamic character in This Means War, then you might enjoy his performance in this movie, though this time the edge is a little more and the comedy is a little less than his spy counterpart. 

I could go on and on about the acting, but I suppose you want some more details about this film.  Although I’m not the biggest fan of illegal crime dramas, this movie surprisingly held my interest.  The character development in particular was nice to see as most of the characters had more than one side to them.  Yes, for those who got tired of seeing comedic dribble spouting characters, your patience is awarded with this movie.  Now this doesn’t mean we just have characters sitting the park and opening up with a good cry.  Instead these characteristics are pulled out as the smuggling operation evolves from a backwater delivery service into a moonshine empire.  As the business grows and more people get to know Hardy and Labeouf, the two brothers begin to face more tangles in their world that push their characters to challenge their beliefs.  The result of such dynamic characters is a story that keeps getting more interesting, and kept me in suspense about what would happen next.  Although there were some obvious signs and predictable plot points, I was still uncertain at a few points in the movie.

What else is there to tell about this movie?  I guess those looking for a mafia shootout will be disappointed in the action of this movie.  Instead of bank robberies and alcohol induced shooting rants; Lawless uses the firearms as more of a threat than an actual weapon.  Countless scenes in the trailers of the characters holding guns, are accurate representations of what the characters actually do, standing there screaming instead of firing, the exception being Pearce’s character.  No the violence really comes in the form of harsh punishment such as beatings, slit throats, and torture than high adrenaline gun fights.  As you can probably guess, these punishments are fairly graphic and I warn those with weak stomachs, or fainting at the site of blood.  Being a rated R movie you can also bet there is plenty of cursing to support the southern accent heavy rage.  However, the cursing is actually spread out and timed enough to not get stale, so I wasn’t as annoyed or bothered this time.  Other than that, the illegal bootlegging world is well portrayed in this movie and helps add that extra oomph to draw you further into the movie.

Lawless is definitely a well casted and acted movie, and surprisingly entertained me for not knowing too much about it.  Although there is some editing that could be done, this movie is worth a visit to the theater for the characters alone.  Though again those who don’t like bloody violence, and depressing, soulless acts, may want to see a kid’s movie instead.  My scores are below:

Crime/Drama/Western:  8.5

Movie Overall: 7.5