Wknd Box Office: Remember, Hello My Name Is Doris, Miracles From Heaven, The Bronze, The Confirmation, The Divergent Series: Allegiant Part 1By Debbie Schlussel
* Remember – Rated R: I can’t say enough good things about this spectacular movie. It blew my mind because it’s so clever and well done. I walked out of this with that rare feeling of satisfaction and awe I get when I walk out of a great movie that wows me. Aside from being a tightly crafted thriller, it’s powerful, very well written, and extremely well acted. I can’t remember another thriller I liked as much in the last decade, and I’d probably put it in my top 10 or 20 of all the thrillers I can remember seeing.
Because I’ve seen so many movies, few surprise me anymore, and I can usually predict what’s gonna happen next. But not here–there is a twist at the end of the movie I never saw coming, even though there are hints at it and plot devices I don’t want to detail here, lest I spoil the movie.
The story is suspenseful from nearly the beginning to the very end. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. And it stars the always excellent Christopher Plummer, who–even at the age of 86–remains a sharp, crisp actor, one of the best in the biz. The same goes for 87-year-old co-star Martin Landau. The rest of the cast are also skilled, well-known American and German actors, most of them older. And this movie shows that, despite Hollywood’s focus on youth, senior citizen actors can make a compelling, exciting movie.
Plummer plays a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, Zev (which, as the movie points out is Hebrew for “Wolf” and was my late paternal grandfather’s Hebrew name). Zev, a Holocaust survivor, lives at a Midwestern nursing home for senior citizens, where he is just finishing sitting shiva (the first seven days of mourning in Judaism) for his late wife. His friend, Max (Landau), a fellow survivor and resident of the old folks home, reminds Zev that now that his wife is gone, it’s time for him to carry out the plan he and Max made. That mysterious plan, as we soon learn, is to hunt down a surviving Nazi officer at Auschwitz who murdered most of both of their families there. The movie follows Zev as he tries to hunt down the Nazi.
But there is a wrinkle in the plan. Zev has dementia or Alzheimer’s and he frequently forgets things and forgets where he is and what he’s doing. Max writes him a letter to detail the plan, to which he has to refer. The letter is almost like a character in the movie.
Because this is a small-budget movie, it is mostly showing in arthouse movie theaters and the like. It opened last week in New York and Los Angeles. This weekend, it opened in Detroit and some other locations, and next week, it will open in Cleveland and other cities nationwide.
Director Atom Egoyan did a great job here. Go see it.
FOUR REAGANS PLUS
Watch the trailer . . .
* Hello, My Name is Doris – Rated R: This movie creeped me out but also made me laugh. So, I have mixed feelings about it. It’s a great statement on the absurdity of hipsters, but also on the silly, sad desperation of some older women a/k/a “cougars” to date much younger men.
Sally Field, who is 69 years old, plays Doris, a dowdy, quirky employee of an advertising agency. She is also something of a hoarder and is seeing a therapist. Her mother, with whom she lived, has just died, and her brother and sister-in-law are pressuring her to clean up the clutter. Meanwhile, with her friend Roz (Tyne Daly of Cagney & Lacey fame), Doris attends self-help seminars featuring some schlocky, scammy pitch man a la Tony Robbins, who tells her she can attain anything she wants.
One day at work, a new employee–John (36-year-old Max Greenfield)–is introduced, and Doris is instantly smitten. She is soon daydreaming about making out with John. (Those scenes are gross and creepy–at least to me. Who wants to see some old woman making out with a guy young enough to be her grandson?) She is influenced by the self-help guru’s advice and thinks she can actually get this much younger man to become romantically interested in her.
Doris seeks “dating” advice on how to attract John’s interest. But the source of the advice is Roz’s 13-year-old granddaughter, who convinces Doris to create a fake Facebook profile and friend John. By looking on John’s Facebook profile, Doris learns that John likes an obscure hipster singer, so she buys the singer’s CDs, attends the singer’s concert, and “runs into” John, which she’d planned all along.
The singer sees Doris at the concert and hires her to be on the cover of his next album. Doris is a “museum exhibit” for the singer and its hipster fans, but she doesn’t get that and thinks she’s “in” with them. At one party scene, I laughed as Doris listened to a 20-something hipster chick tell her, “I teach at an LGBT pre-school. These lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender toddlers have taught me so much and changed my life.” The movie mocks other aspects of hipster and millennial stupidity and pretentiousness, including another scene in which a character tells Doris that she feels so much better now that she has “joined the LGBT knitting community.
As Doris gets more and more obsessed with John and tries to sabotage certain aspects of her life, you know that soon the chickens will come home to roost.
I liked the movie’s mockery of hipsters, millennials, and cougar grandmas who actually think they can date kids their grandchildrens’ age. But, on the other hand, I think this movie actually opened the door a little on the possibility and appropriateness of the latter, and that part I didn’t like. Newsflash: most men Max Greenfield’s age have ZERO interest in the Sally Fields of the world. Just sayin’. To pretend it could happen is just BS.
This is a quick, quirky, and entertaining movie, but very weird (and creepy).
Watch the trailer . . .
* Miracles From Heaven – Rated PG: I have never been a fan of Jennifer Garner and her over-acted, overly dramatic, annoying, cloying and maudlin style. But, for once (and probably only this once), she is appropriately cast. This is a tearjerker (and maybe even a tad manipulatively so). However, I liked the way it stressed faith, miracles, G-d, and the afterlife in a positive manner.
This is based on the true life story of the Beam Family of Texas, as written in a book by wife and mother Christy Beam, portrayed here by Garner. The Beam family is mortgaged to the hilt as husband, father, and veterinarian Kevin Beam has borrowed heavily to start a veterinary clinic and rescue center for stray animals. And just as the family’s budget is stretched so tight, the Beam’s young daughter, Anna Beam, becomes very sick. Her parents take her to various doctors and hospitals, and no one seems to be able to correctly diagnose Anna’s problem. She can’t keep down any food and is constantly vomiting. Soon, her belly is distended (swollen).
One night, almost near death, the Beams, again, take their daughter to the hospital in the middle of the night. The doctor who examines here declares there is nothing wrong. Mrs. Beam loudly protests, and another doctor examines her, telling the parents that an operation must be performed immediately or the girl will die. After surgery, it is determined that Ann has a problem with her intestines–a rare disorder–and her body cannot process food. But there is one doctor in the country–Dr. Samuel Nurko, a Mexican doctor based in Boston–who is an expert on this condition and can treat her. (In case you were wondering, I looked Dr. Nurko up, and unlike in most other movies, where a White professional or hero is turned into a Hispanic, Black, or other minority for PC reasons, the doc is really Mexican.) The doctor has a long waiting list, and a space will only open up when another patient dies, as few are cured of this condition. Christy Beam is desperate and understandably very emotional in her attempts to get her daughter into the care of Dr. Nurko.
The movie follows Christy Beam’s attempts to get her daughter treated and cured, and shows us how miracles happen as only G-d can make them happen. Through this all, Mrs. Beam loses her faith in G-d and stops attending church, but she regains that faith as she begins to recognize all the miracles right before her eyes that she failed to see previously.
I didn’t find a particular scene to be realistic or believable. In it, church members confront Christy Beam and tell her that she, her husband, or daughter must have committed some great sin for this to happen to her daughter. In my experience at any synagogue I’ve ever attended (and I’m sure this is the case at any church), congregants do whatever they can to empathize with and comfort an afflicted family in this kind of situation. But other than that, it sounds like the story is accurate. Other than Garner, the only other “big name” in this is Queen Latifah a/k/a Dana Owens.
The movie isn’t slow or boring. It’s fast-paced and very moving and touching at the end. And, again, it’s among the slowly growing numbers of movies that portray faith in a positive light. And that’s a good thing. It’s a void that has been unfilled too long.
Watch the trailer . . .
* The Bronze – Rated R: This movie is yet another example of a great idea with a horrible, stupid, filthy execution. Oh, and it mocks Midwesterners and small town America. Typical Hollywood crap, in other words.
Since I once was a sports agent who represented Olympic athletes, including an Olympic Silver Medalist, I thought the concept in this movie was great: a spoiled brat Olympian who won a Bronze Medal years ago is an unemployed loser and a complete creep living in her father’s basement without any ambition in life. But the execution here was just another lowlife, unfunny “comedy” filled with dumb dirty jokes and silly dialogue. Plus it looks down on the good people of Middle America (yes, usually the Republicans) as idiots and naifs. For the lascivious types who’ve often wondered (and fantasized) about a gymnast sex scene, here’s a tip: it isn’t so fantastic, or even interesting at all (at least not in this stupid flick). Another thing: the main character in this movie, played by crappy actress Melissa Rauch (who also wrote this with her husband), has this weird put-upon accent that sounds like nobody I’ve ever met from Ohio . . . unless Ohioans now sound like Sarah Palin and half the people from northern Minnesota.
Rauch plays Hope, an Olympic gymnast who won the Bronze Medal years ago. Now, she’s an egomaniacal creep who leeches off her mailman father and sits in her room masturbating to video of her winning the medal. Oh, and she also steals mail from her father’s truck, shoplifts, mooches off of locals by trading on her Olympic fame, and she does a lot of illegal drugs. She’s never likable, even at the end of the movie when we’re supposed to suddenly be proud of and sympathize with her. She’s a snob who looks down on everyone else, when everyone else should be looking down on her. On top of all that, Hope is living in a time warp. She constantly wears her 1980s (or ’90s?) hair style of teased bangs and ponytail in a scrunchy constantly. Her wardrobe is the same every day: her Olympic warm up.
Hope takes advantage of being her hometown’s most famous resident. She has a reserved parking space on the town’s main street and gets free meals at the local diner. She also steals clothes and buys drugs at the local mall. But she’s worried that her glory will be stolen by local Olympic gymnastics hopeful Maggie (Haley Lue Richardson). Maggie is training with Hope’s ex-coach, a Russian woman with whom she’s had a falling out. But, soon, her ex-coach has committed suicide and a letter arrives in the mail from the dead coach. The letter says the coach is leaving her $500,000, but only after she coaches Maggie in her Olympic bid to completion.
Hope, with no prospects and seeking money, decides to take on the challenge, seeking to sabotage Maggie and keep her from the Olympics. The letter says she gets the money whether or not Maggie makes the Olympic team and regardless of whether she medals. But, because of obstacles in her way–including an ex-Olympian who is also a former flame and a rival–Hope decides to seriously train Maggie and get her to the Olympics. Along the way, Hope kindles a romance with a local who has a face-twitch and is a virgin. Of course, she mocks both of these things.
There is nothing good, interesting, or new in this barely entertaining dud. And nothing worth wasting ten-buck-plus and nearly two hours of your life on. This is mostly garbage.
Like I said, great idea. Horrible movie.
Watch the trailer . . .
* The Confirmation – Rated PG-13: I have mixed feelings about this movie. It covers an important topic from a side we rarely see emanating from Hollywood. On the other hand, it was kinda slow, and I’m not sure I’d pay ten bucks or more to see it.
There are many divorced fathers in America who’ve lost everything because of divorce. Their ex-wives live better than they do, while the ex-husbands are often struggling to survive . . . and at the same time struggling for the opportunity to show their children that they love them. In many cases, the kids have been poisoned and falsely propagandized by their mothers that the father doesn’t care about them.
It’s in this setting and broken family dynamic that this movie takes place. Clive Owen is Walt, father of Anthony. Anthony has been programmed by his mother Bonnie (Maria Bello) that his father doesn’t care and isn’t in his life much. It’s the weekend, and it’s time for Walt to have his portion of shared custody with young Anthony. But there’s a wrinkle . . . a few of them.
Walt is an alcoholic who is trying to recover but having mixed success. And he’s also financially strapped. The home he built for his wife and son is now occupied by his son, his now ex-wife and her wealthy new husband. Walt, in contrast, is struggling to survive and just got locked out of his rental home, from which he’s been evicted. He is offered a job the following Monday, and the job would bring him a lot of much needed cash. But there’s a problem: he discovers that his tools, which are worth several hundred dollars (and were his late father’s) have been stolen from his truck. They were stolen because he left the safe on the truck unlocked (due to drunkenness). Also, they were taken from the truck when Walt went into a bar for a drink and left his son outside to watch the truck. Soon, the son went inside to get his dad, and that’s when they went missing.
The movie is mostly spent on Walt trying to find out who stole his tools and trying to locate them. But it is also spent with Walt trying to show his son that he loves him and is desperately struggling to provide for him and to be a loving father. At the same time that all of this is happening, Walt is confronted with financial crisis after financial crisis. And he and his young son band together to get through it all. His son also plots to cure his dad’s recurring alcoholism.
I think this movie did a very good job of portraying the crises that divorced fathers face in America, except that many–and probably most–men who find themselves in this situation are NOT alcoholics, but just normal, healthy fathers desperately seeking to show their kids love. And it was entertaining. But it went a little slow. It’s a decent movie and a rare one showing divorced fathers’ struggle and lot in American life. It’s tough.
Watch the trailer . . .
* The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Part 1 – Rated PG-13: Along with the rest of the American moviegoing public, I long ago grew tired of the seemingly endless parade of multiple movie sequels taken from post-apocalyptic, dystopian Young Adult novels. They all seem the same. They all have the same story and plot. And they all blend together into the non-memorable.
This is more of the same. And it’s long past time for it to end. Not to worry for Hollywood’s hypocritical anti-capitalist capitalists, though. Not only won’t they let it end, but–per usual–they’ve stretched this “last” boring chapter of the Divergent book series into two parts. What should have been one movie has been put in extreme slow motion and stretched into two, so they can squeeze maximum profits out of this brand of cinematic sleeping pills.
I fell asleep twice during this, and I missed nothing. Why? Because not only is it the same old story as all the other Young Adult dystopian crap, it’s also the same as the last two movies in this series. It just repeats over and over again, as original and entertaining as shampoo, rinse, repeat. And, yeah, I’d rather be washing my hair than rinsing my brain with this.
Tris (played by the world’s dullest and most overrated actress, Shailene Woodley) and her fellow rebels in post-apocalyptic Chicago have killed their previous dictator, but now they have a new one, from their own side. They can’t stand for it, and as brutal and ruthless trials and executions of their fellow citizens take place, they escape. Tris and gang head for what’s beyond the wall–the wall they’ve been told never to pass over. After some fighting and struggle, they make it over the wall. At first they find a lot of red desert land and destroyed villages. It’s empty and desolate. But then they are “rescued” by others and find themselves in a new place run by Jeff Daniels, who is supposed to be a good guy. But is he? If you’ve seen even one of this kind of movie, you already know the answer. It’s so predictable because they simply can’t come up with anything new. New enemies and fights have to be invented to keep the action, fight scenes, and (lack of a) story going.
There is a lot of talk about “the council” versus “the bureau,” which is confusing and silly. But, hey, they need to fill a script and a movie. And there’s this thing about a community in Providence. Who cares? I sure did not.
Post-apocalyptic Providence is as interesting as post-apocalyptic Chicago and Shailene Woodley. As in, not very.
Skip this and save two hours of your life you’ll never get back.
Watch the trailer . . .