Oh Mother, Where Art Thou?

mother!

 

Horror movies continue to be a popular trend in Hollywood.  IT’s successful launch last weekend, surely inspires the trend to continue, so what the heck put out another one this weekend.   Jennifer Lawrence takes center stage in what looks to be a psychosocial thriller to usher in a new age. Will the artistic styles of Darren Aronofsky be a welcome change to the milieu, or does its odd premise promised in the trailers might dive too far down crazy town to enjoy?  Robbie K happy to fill in some gaps with another review.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

 

Unique vision:  Call me crazy, as many people do, but originality is something difficult to come by these days.  Mother, certainly gets points for standing out, not only in the bizarre presentation and mind messing visuals, but also in the symbolism represented in the story.  Amidst the mystery, drama, and other oddities in the film, one will get their fill of morals in that artistic manor Hollywood loves. One certainly won’t forget this movie, or its…originality.

 

Acting: The chemistry between Javier Bardem and Lawrence is perhaps the biggest selling point of this movie.  Much of the mystery comes in the tension between the two protagonists, Bardem’s deceptive nature and double speak is on point to keep you wondering what is going on.  Lawrence’s curiosity and desperation kept me intrigued as to how far she could go, before breaking and challenging his words.  It’s a relationship dynamic brought out in spades, further leading you down the rabbit hole into the mind meddling to be had. In addition, Lawrence also knows how to sell psychotic with screams, tears, and just enough raspy voice to sell suffering.

 

Prosthetics/makeupGrasping for straws here, but the team did a nice job with the prosthetics at hand.  Injuries that arise look festering as if plagued by infection illustrated in text books. The degrading house seen in the trailers is only further detailed in the shots, black marks and degrading wood in all its glory. And Lawrence’s pregnant belly is flawlessly blended into her normal skin, creating the roll that she could pop at any point.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Slow: Forgive me, but horror movies often move quickly to get to the scares at hand, even though they sacrifice story.  While mother has a story…it moves dirt slow to the point of inducing sleep in the movieThe drama aspect takes more precedence than anything, and unfortunately it is dragged out relentlessly to the point of being annoying.  This snail’s pace doesn’t do much for the quality of the movie, despite building up suspense for something never to come.

 

Not Scary: Aren’t horror films  supposed to be scary, or at least try to get me to jump?  Mother failed on this aspect much of the time, resorting to a few loud noises and people sudden turning a corner as their fright factor.  The tactic grew old and soon became nothing more than a ploy to try to salvage scares.  For me, the creepiest factor was seeing humans devolve into selfish, unthinking cretins makes me fear for the future.  Outside of that though, not much got me on edge for this movie.

 

Editing:  I stated above the pace was slow, but that’s because there was too much unneeded details for most of the movie.  The drama was dragged out, the weird concepts were even longer, and there were a few scenes that I could have lived without and been just fine.  Editing needed to jump in and get rid of some of this fluff, because it didn’t work for me at all given the lack of scares. Yet, their hands were tied by the fact the writer was also the director.

 

The Story:  All the symbolism and artistic presentation doesn’t save the audience from an incoherent story. Mother has a lot of weird subplots in it, many of which held little relevance to the overall plotAdditionally, there are lots of gaps in the plot, unless you like theorizing and reflection on the plot, because that’s the only way to fill in the vague data points.  The writer got so centered on its uniqueness, it didn’t close the story the best I think they could do.  Questions are great for discussion, but I like my films with a little more explanation than what I got in this film.  And when you draw most of the conclusions…you can’t help but say, “Really?  That is what this is?” Which reminds me….

 

The Weirdness:  Mother started out artistically weird, but as the movie hit the halfway point it dove deep into the tortured artist route.  What didn’t make sense, quickly turned into a trippy, random display of negligence and rudeness, mocking the modern human while deterring from the mystery.  Soon rapid time progression and sequence changes led to even more head scratching moments, that continued to shock me further to the point of asking what I was watching. The obscene violence and darker phenomenon only grossed me out, and again seemed pointless in the grand scheme of things.

 

 

THE VERDICT:

 

Mother is artistic and unique, I’ll give it that, and certainly makes bold statements about a lot of cultural quarrels plaguing our world.  But outside of that, it’s not so much a horror movie as a though provoking, psychological thriller.  A slow pace, trippy visulas, and just overall weird atmosphere, does not make for the best horror movie.  So, if you had your hopes up for this one, do yourself a favor and skip this mind bender until it hits home theaters.  Go see IT again instead. 

 

Scores:

 

Drama/Mystery/Horror:  6.5

Movie Overall: 4.0

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IT’s A Remake That Rocks!

IT

 

Remakes, remakes, remakes.  It seems every time you turn around, Hollywood is out once more make money by simply updating a previous hit.  Often these remakes pale in comparison, but every once in a while, you get a film worthy of social media blow up and hype. This weekend, the highly anticipated, and over-advertised, IT remake crawls out of the studio shadows and attempts to make us face our fears.  Can Hollywood bring King’s famous work into the modern century of film, or will it merely make us scream in fright at horrible it is.  Robbie K back from a two-week hiatus to bring you another review.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Creepy:  Horror movies are supposed to be scary, and fans of my work know I love it when the studio crawls under my skin.  IT has plenty of moments that creeped me out, primarily the use of shadows, sound, and those small details that teased the audience to the scares.  A nice variety of tactics exists in this movie to make you squirm in your seat, all led by the deliciously evil Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) and all his pasty white glory. One may find another of disturbing scenes in this movie, primarily in that cold, seeking stare he loves to use so much.  Yes, It certainly mirrored the atmosphere portrayed in the book.

 

Acting:  Seldom do I say a horror film has good acting, but IT hit a home run with all the actors chosen to bring the characters to life. Instead of the usual airheaded, shallow characters who did nothing but scream and curse, this cast portrayed a much broader emotional role…while still cursing. This group did such a good job that I actually liked and invested energy into the characters, which isn’t usually the case in modern horror cinema. While I can’t give shout outs to each one, I certainly will give props to how much they sold the summer adventure to me, almost like Stranger Things meets the Goonies, with a little more demented atmosphere on top. Of course, the real props go to Skarsgard, whose portrayal as Pennywise is certainly a major part to the horror he brings.  His delivery is incredible, that shadowy, whisper like voice that mimics the element of the movie.  Throw the laugh and creepy body acting, to get the complete demonic nature of Pennywise.

 

The Story:  Stephen King knows how to write a story, and thank goodness, this director knew how to bring it to life.  IT finally proves you can have a scary movie with a plot worth investing in.  This version follows the book very well, managing to develop the characters, lay out the story, and still bring all the creepy parts into beautiful detail and length.  The result is a more engaging movie, increased suspense, and an emotional roller coaster as you live the adventure through these kids. This aspect is my favorite component of the movie and certainly worth the price of admission, including the little revelation at the end…which fans of the book will know.

 

DISLIKES:

 

More Suspense, Less Scares:  IT might be creepy, but I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be.  I, nor my friends, didn’t jump at all. Despite creepy build-ups and a setting that welcomes scares, IT still has the same predictable foreshadowing that is used a little too often that it dilutes the big revelation.  While it was certainly more suspenseful in regards to the adventure, I don’t foresee myself getting nightmares from this movie.

 

Unbalanced at times:  IT has a lot of things perfectly done in this movie, but there are a few moments where they seemed to drop the ball on their characters.  True, I haven’t read the book in a long time, but I seemed to remember each kid having almost equal involvement in fighting the shapeshifting embodiment of fear.  In this film though, I felt they dropped the characters at time to the backburner, choosing to focus on just three of the main characters.

 

The Computer Effects:  The past two dislikes are minor and just space filling, but the only major dislike was the CGI effects.  When IT conforms into the more realistic entities crafted by makeup and costumes, I would feel grossed out, sickened, and get goosebumps.  However, when the CGI moments came into play, the realism faded away to cheesy effects that were more humorous than terrifying. Sure, the creatures themselves would make anyone wet themselves, but their portrayal In this movie could have been maximized if they stuck to makeup effects.  In addition, some of the convulsing moments were funny to watch, again due to the semi-realistic effects.  While certainly not the worst visual effects, it could have used a little tune up to be honest.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            IT proves that you can make a remake that doesn’t stink and may actually be truer to the book.  While not the scariest movie to haunt the theater, it is fantastically creepy and will certainly get your skin crawling.  In addition, the acting and story are fully developed and bring about a wonderful tale that will keep you hooked into the movie wondering where the end of the adventure would be.  Yes, the computer effects need a little work, but otherwise a solid addition to the horror genre and a worthy trip to the theater.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Horror:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

Nolan, Dun Got It Right

Dunkirk

 

War, huh, yeah, what is it good for?  Entertaining movies, that is what it is good for.  Hollywood has numerous examples of wars from the various historical times in our human legacy. Many of these installments focus on a hero who saved the war, or a band of brothers that bravely faced the odds to hold the line.  In most cases though, you can bet there will be violence, explosions, and often graphic portrayals of the hell contained in our squabbles.  I finish my weekend reviews with Dunkirk, which is the latest installment in the Christopher Nolan library.  Can the Dark Knight director work his magic in war?  Or does it fizzle out like a dud bomb.  Robbie K here to give his opinions.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

 

Layered Story:  Many war movies are the linear tales of the hero who will win the battle.  Dunkirk diverts from this main path and instead presents its plot from three viewpoints that overlap at various times.  A cryptic opening doesn’t do much to explain this, but eventually the plots coincide and your mind is blown by the presentation.  This element, though confusing at times, adds that unique flare to the movie that keeps your interest piqued as you connect the journeys of those involved.  In addition, the multiple viewpoints give you a more complete picture of the war, further bringing the history to life in a manner Hollywood special effects is famous for.

 

Realism:  We know the doctoring editing and story writers can make to score big bucks in the box office.  These moments often lead to overdramatic, eye-rolling moments that war dramas can be.  Dunkirk again shines in the unique department in terms of crafting the story to be realistic in many details.  You’ll be pulled into the war in this film, grounded in the nightmares that plague the battlefields and the internal struggle that all involved face.  I felt plagued with the emotional guilt in the choices made in this film, while also concerned with the consequences that could follow those choices. The film’s focus on the people and not the battle works on so many levels, and makes you interested in the characters more so than the special effects.  Nice choice again Noland!

 

The Cinematography:  Dunkirk doesn’t have a lot of lines, award winning dialogue, or even one-liners that we as humans like.  Instead it is the cinematography and editing that bring Dunkirk to life and make it shine in the theater’s dark halls.   While the special effects are certainly impressive (though not that showy), it’s really the camera work that brings the mood out in the form of hope seeking faces that are suffering through the onslaught dealt to them.  Throw in the powerful musical score and mix in the little line delivery and you get that recipe for emotional bombardment that brings respect, empathy, and pride of the sacrifices made by troops long ago.

 

Short run time:  Such a dynamic, sounds like it would take forever…fortunately Nolan’s direction kept the movie under 2 hours and brought quality out in that short time.  This is an example of good directing and editing, and proof that you can have a quality film in a short time limit.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Missing that Hollywood Story:  Realism is good, but I certainly missed having a flared-up story to grip onto.  Dunkirk is a quality movie, but it isn’t as much fun as I have had with other war movies.  It lacks some of the big, bang excitement made famous in other war movies, and the realistic psychological approach can drag at times.  The result is not the action-packed survival I had hoped for, but I can always rewatch Hacksaw Ridge for that. And while I enjoyed the layered story approach, I again think it was confusing at times to piece things together without a central story, plot, or goal (outside of survival/rescue) to hook onto.

 

The placement of certain scenes: My buddy and I agreed that there were points to this movie that were difficult to follow.  Much of this came from the odd placement of clips in the movie and the rapid transitions between these various stories with little guidance.  Things do get better when the lines start to come together, but there are still scenes that still stay confusing at points until the end of the movie.  In addition, the pacing of the stories was uneven at times, with a couple of stories rapidly concluding (so you think), only to reappear after a prolonged gap.  Not the biggest weakness, but things could have been a little better oriented for me.

 

Depressing:  We know war sucks, and this movie’s portrayal of the loss of hope amplifies those feelings. There are so many elements of depression in this movie that you may feel a little down following the opening.  I felt a little tired during this movie, especially during the drawn-out moments that were more depressing and less stressing.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Dunkirk is certainly one of the more artistic and clever portrayals of war, dropping Hollywood flare for realism.  Nolan’s impressive directing opens up new worlds of war theater and keeps things fresh with the impressive displays of heroism.  Yet all the good the cinematography and directing is… I missed the Hollywood flare that cinemas bring.  Without that story/entertainment value to it… Dunkirk has some confusing presentations and dragged out moments that can weigh heavy on you.  Still, this movie has plenty to qualify a visit to the theater, and one of the better movies of the summer.  Not the epic wartime thriller, but certainly one of the more realistic, war dramas I have ever seen. 

 

My scores:

 

Action/Drama/History:  9.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

 

 

Everything You Have Seen Before

everything

 

Coming of age movies have come in a variety of styles, packages, and of course quality. While the number of generational novels (and subsequent movies) have increased over the decades, their quality has decreased for many, lost to the gimmick of modern, superficial entertainment it has become. And so here comes yet another addition to the teenage book movie collection Everything, Everything! Interesting title aside, I must admit I didn’t have high hopes for this movie, but nevertheless I’m back in the theater to give you the thoughts on yet another film.  Let’s get it on…figuratively that is.

 

LIKES

  • Good pace
  • Great chemistry
  • Realistic, not annoying
  • Twist

 

Summary:  Okay, when it comes to love stories…we know I find the pace to be slow and often boring, (yes, I’m a robot). However, in Everything, Everything, that trend was finally broken.  No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you my friends, you read right.  Everything, Everything keeps the pace moving, making sure to bring prompt, concise introductions and dive right into the story at hand. No this doesn’t mean they skip over too many things (admit haven’t read the story), but it keeps the adventure going, all while maintaining the romance involved.

What helped accomplish this?  In all honesty, I think it was the chemistry that made the movie, with the two stars Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson having a fantastic relationship with each other.  They play off each other’s emotions, seem to like working with other, and maximize the energy they bring to the screen.  It’s like they are actually in love with each other, or at least friends, and that sold the relationship/story for me.  An added bonus is that the relationship felt like a real example of a developing relationship, forgoing the cheap antics of cheesy love that most romantic comedies choose.  They weren’t instantly soul mates or magically destined to succeed.  So, nice to see that portrayed every once in a while.

Yet the main thing that sunk me into the tale was the twist in the story.  It takes a lot to surprise me in movies (I’ve seen so many after all), but this movie was able to covertly hide some nuances that seemed inconsistent were instead hints at what was to come.  While it took place a little late, it really brought the film to full circle and ended the film with a powerful finale.  Nice job my friends… nice job.

 

DISLIKES

  • A slow abridged start
  • A few overacted moments
  • Some odd directions
  • Dropped characters
  • Uniqueness is kind of missing

 

Summary:  I know what you’re thinking, you’re contradicting yourself again.  Hear me out, overall the pace worked for me, but the opening took a little time to take off the ground. The introduction was a little dragged out and slow, merely a compellation of moping scenes with a monologue overlapping to explain the abridged, somewhat underdeveloped details. 

In addition, the movie takes some odd turns in the film, going into some pointless tangents that were odder than anything.  A common metaphor is the astronaut to which she compares her life to, a symbol of being a long individual stuck in the vast, empty void.  Cool symbolism, but it gets lost in these trippy side arcs of the astronaut trying to do mundane tasks in the background while our characters act out their text messages.  I’m guessing it was trying to be funny, but this weirdness was an unneeded distraction that did little but make me think some drugs could have been involved.  Well that and helping distract from some of the more overacted moments. Despite a rich chemistry between each other, there were times that reaction failed to activated, leading too some flat attempts at get tears going.  Fortunately, these eye rolling moments were kept to a minimum.

And while the story was good overall for me, there are still a few other flaws that hit me.  First of all, the trailers spent some time building up a few characters (such as the nurse and for a while the mother), only for them to drop them out of the picture for a long while.  Why the dropped story?  Why the potential for a little emotional build up to really kick things up?  Probably for more kissing and declarations of love I suppose.  Still they cheated us out of some good character interactions, leaving us to explore those components by reading the book.  How dare they!

This brings me to the last dislike, the lack of uniqueness.  Despite the twists, surprises and decent pace, Everything, Everything still lacks that unique touch that we all still look for.  It has all the familiar elements of this genre, with little deviation and originality to compliment on.  If this familiarity is what you want, then great, because that comfort is present in the movie.  However, if you are looking for something with a little more pizazz and originality… then you will want to move along.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Despite lacking originality, this reviewer is pleased to see a quality coming of age movie hit the theaters this weekend.  Everything, Everything certainly has everything you want in a teenage chick flick with a decent pace, good acting chemistry, and a nice twist to spruce things up.  Yet it still is that familiar story of love Hollywood likes and lacks a lot of theater worthy elements that make it worth the admission price.  Therefore, I can recommend this movie for a visit if you’re looking for a good book movie, but I still recommend waiting for Redbox to see this film. 

 

My score is:

 

Drama/Romance: 8.0

Movie Overall: 6.5

A Ring Story, Without the Scares

rings

            Seven days!  A simple phrase that struck terror in our hearts oh so many years ago.  Certainly, you know I’m talking of The Ring, the horror movie about a death delivering video tape certain to scare you to death.  Samara’s tale has fallen on to the backburner for some time, but like the cursed video, the series has resurfaced to the modern world to once more have you cowering at your screens.  Will Rings live up to the potential?  Robbie K here, once more sharing his opinions on yet another film.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

  • Decent acting
  • Nice blend into the modern era
  • Strong story for a horror

 

Summary: Okay, this movie is certainly not going to win awards for best performance, but Rings’ cast has some skill in their performances of college kids plagued by an evil spirit. Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz and Alex Roe are the leads of this tale, doing a great job of balancing romance and detective work, finally a power couple who wasn’t annoying.  And Johnny Galecki trades one nerd role for another, though this time his scientific qualities had a little darker twist to the mix.  Overall, the cast gets a pat on the back for establishing some good characters to hook on to.

Yet the major things this reviewer liked involved the story components of the movie.  Rings has jumped into the modern area, dropping the outdated VHS tapes for modern day MP4 files.  It will help bridge the generation gaps, and add a new element that the other installments were missing.  And the story was much stronger than I anticipated.  Rings has more mystery to it, trying to find the answers to the elusive mystery of Samara’s origins.  Where it fits in the grand scheme of things is a little up in the air, but at least there is some character development and drama to spice things up.  And as for the ending, it too is a little ambiguous, providing some delightfully dark closure, but still leaving it open for future installments.  Not the strongest finish, but also not bad.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Scare Factor at A Low
  • Some plot elements lackluster
  • Not the same Ring

 

Summary: Rings story may be on target, but the scare factor still didn’t reach the same levels that the first movie was able to achieve.  This installment resorted to jump out scare moments, mainly trying to make you jump with sudden loud noises and hallucinations appearing from out of nowhere.  Many of these moments weren’t well timed, and to be honest many of the objects just weren’t scary.  Think of the first film and how creepy everything was, the unknown always teasing you until something sprung out of nowhere. All that was very diluted in this installment.  Even though they finally show you how she kills her victims, the team didn’t quite make it as horrifying as I thought it would be (think ghost rider’s soul stare without the flashy fire).  Rings was lacking this element, and had more of a mystery theme to it than an actual horror.  In addition, there were also some plot elements that didn’t shine as much as they wanted. For this reviewer, there is still some questions they still haven’t fully answered that you have to draw yourself.  The bottom line of the dislikes is that Rings didn’t quite hit the same level the first movie had all those years ago.

 

The VERDICT:

 

In conclusion, Ring is not so much a horror movie in this round, but a mystery film about uncovering the origins of Samara.  While the cast is decent, the story is mostly thought out, and we have some answer, it still didn’t feel like the Ring series we’ve come to know. If you are looking for a movie to scare the pants off of you, sorry this isn’t the film to do it. And you can probably guess, but yours truly doesn’t recommend this one for the theater and implores you to wait until it hits home rental stands.  Only people who might enjoy this one in theater are those who care about the story element of the movie, but I still think you can wait for home (I mean we have been waiting twelve years for this one right?). 

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Horror:  6.5

Movie Overall: 5.0

Life, Death, Lessons: A Dog’s Philosophical Tale

dogs-purpose

            Robbie K here with another review on the latest thing to hit the silver screen. Today our focus is on a movie about man’s best friend, the dog, and the incredible things they do for us.  Despite all the discussion this movie has drummed up, I still paid a visit to the theater to see what they had in store.  What’s the verdict?  As always read on (or skip down) to what my thoughts are on what looks to be an emotionally uplifting movie.

 

LIKES:

  • Cute Puppies
  • Comedic
  • Emotionally powerful Sequences and Dialogue

 

Summary: If you have seen the trailers (or read the title), you hopefully know this is a movie about dogs and what they can do.  And fortunately, this movie delivers on the promise of showing just how adorable our canine compatriots areMuch of my fellow audience members squealed in delight as the dogs chased their tales, ran all over the house, and shared their love in hugs and kisses.  An added bonus is that many of these moments are also funny, either at just how cute they are or an intentionally funny line.  Josh Gadd voicing the various dogs was a smart decision, his casual observations and delivery matching the dogs looks so well. Yes, there are moments where they try a little too hard, but overall the family friendly themes will be a welcome sight.

And for the older audience members, be ready for some powerful punches to the feelings with this movie.  A Dog’s Purpose is filled to the brim with moments that will have many tearing up, primarily at just how much these four legged friends do for us.  The messages in this film hit hard thanks to the visual and audio editing, the scenes design to capture the raw emotion behind the dog’s eyes.  Yet, even Gad’s dialogue gets the water works rolling, not only for the wisdom they share in those words, but also in how well it matches my vision of how a dog would speak.  A Dog’s Purpose certainly has the emotionally fluffiness you would expect, however there are some limitations we must address.

 

DISLIKES:

  • The imbalance of stories/Simplicity
  • Dennis Quaid as the selling point
  • Depressing

 

Summary:  Okay, so did I really think this tale was going to be a deep well of twists, turns, and surprises?  The answer is no. However, I had hoped that such a straightforward tale would have had a little more balance to the mix.  A Dog’s purpose is told in four tales that turn out to be one full circle (which is cool), however there was an imbalance in how much they spent on each story and their purposeThe first tale about Bailey gets the greatest emphasis (and time), building up the relationship between man and dog.  However, the other tales are far less developed, much more rushed in terms of character building with a focus on fun and quick lessons.  Don’t get me wrong, these stories do have a place, I just expected more contributions from these parts based on the trailer.  I also expected Dennis Quaid to have a bigger role, but the “legendary” actor is surprisingly simple in the grand scheme of the movie.  His fans shouldn’t expect much from him in this movie, as his part is reduced to maybe fifteen minutes of a quick wrap up to what could have been a deep relationship.

Yet the biggest dislike for me in this movie, is how depressing it can be at times.  We all know this movie was going to have tearful moments (again see the trailer), but never did I expect to see so much suffering and detailed scenes of the dog passing.  A Dog’s Purpose will certainly get animal activists screaming, for the directors decided that in order to deliver the full emotional effect, you had to see them suffer or die on screen.  If you can’t handle seeing this amount of detail on screen, then skip this film. The after effect of the scene will linger for a bit, but the cuteness and happy themes eventually return.  However, I’m not the biggest fan of a dog death scene, let alone three of them.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

A Dog’s Purpose is indeed one of the most emotional movies of the year. It is certainly one of the best portrayals of an ideal relationship between man and dog, and will have many families laughing at the cute antics at hand.  But don’t let the puppy faces and Josh Gad fool you, as this movie has many depressing moments of abuse and death to get your anger boiling.  Overall the story has much to teach, but don’t let the promise of Dennis Quaid, four dogs, and the cuteness fool you into thinking this is a perfect story.  Yet despite all the hate this movie is getting, it’s still a decent drama overall that doesn’t drift too far into what I call soap opera territory.  Worth a trip to the theater?  Honestly I would say hold out for home, but if you want to see this make sure your family is prepared for the depression at hand. 

 

My scores are:

Adventure/Comedy/Drama: 7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

 

Doesn’t Live To It’s Full Potential

live-by-night

 

Gangster movies have been a major component to American cinema for quite some time. With established films like The Godfather series, Scarface, among other films, sometimes it can be hard to produce a quality modern day crime film. But Ben Affleck has made an attempt this weekend with the movie Live by Night. Can Affleck’s recent resurgence revitalize the gang movie, or does his operation go belly up before it gets started?  Robbie K here with another review and as always appreciate the read.

 

LIKES:

  • Solid acting
  • Incredible Setting and Costumes
  • Very Detailed Description of a mob rising

 

Summary: Affleck’s stoic, monotone, performances continue to find footholds in a variety of parts, and his portrayal of a gangster with a conscience is spot on.  Although not the most emotionally dynamic character, Affleck’s tactics work in portraying a man struggling with the trials at hand. Chris Messina as his sidekick has more of an edge that helps offset the monotone delivery of the lead role. Other actors do their job of crafting the seedy mob family, being cunning, ruthless, or strong to accomplish their goals.  If the acting doesn’t sell the gangster setting than the costumes and scenery will do the trick. Live by Night uses the big budget of the film industry to recreate the roaring 20s, complete with old fashioned zoot suits, classic car models, and the nostalgic traditional models of high-end restaurants.  I felt I had traveled back in time in this flick, with only the high definition cameras and a recognition of modern day fabric to shatter the illusion.  Finally, the other component that sells the crime theme is the attention to detail of starting a crime syndicate.  Most other crime movies often have our character in an established family, but Live By Night twists this concept and casts Affleck into raising a satellite family in Florida.  Much of the film is focuses on how he establishes business contracts, allies, love, occasionally throwing in some conflict resolution that brings a little excitement to the film.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Slow pace
  • Awkward Summaries
  • Boring At times
  • Rushed over ending

 

Summary: Although some of my favorite mafia movies don’t have action, they at least have an engaging plot that is suspenseful.  Not the case for this movie. Live by Night is slow, often paying a little too much attention to monotonous details for building the empire.  The film tried to build the suspense with their overdone explanations that promised some heart crushing moments… only to wrap things up with a monologue from Affleck describing what happened.  These mundane, overlapping comments did little for me other than decrease the run time of the movie and I was disappointed at the lack of effort for drama.  The result for me was a very boring film not only in terms of action, but in emotional suspense as well.  If you look at the classics, the storytellers built up tension that climaxed at those gut-wrenching moments as a character was killed.  However in this film, they seldom came close to matching that suspense, the only exception being two moments near the end of the film. And speaking of the ending… it felt out of place for me.  Live By nights “exciting” climax has a heated battle that fits well into the theme of the movie, but finally relieves the boring moments.  Had they ended with the monologue after that it would have been perfect.  Yet, the movie didn’t stop and added an extra twenty minutes that summed things up, but in a manner that to me was very simplistic, rushed, and lackluster. 

 

The VERDICT:

 

Live by Night is a gangster movie that felt more like a video guide to starting a bootlegging operation.  It certainly has the look and feel of a gangster movie, complete with family drama, but it lacks that edge the mobster classics had.  Outside of a few moments, this movie was a little toned down for my tastes, and I didn’t like the monologue summaries as they robbed us of some exciting conclusions.  Therefore, this reviewer can’t recommend this movie for the theater outside of the look of the movie. 

 

My scores are:

 

Crime Drama: 6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0