Category Archives: Drama

Adopt A Highway (2019) Movie Review By Peter Pluymers

 

Adopt A Highway Review

Director: Logan Marshall-Green
Writer: Logan Marshall-Green
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Elaine Hendrix, Chris Sullivan

“When you commit a third violent crime,
you will be put away and put away for good.
Three strikes and you are out.”

Every now and then you come across such an unknown, idiosyncratic film, which was probably made with a modest budget and for which no huge marketing budgets have been made available. A film you don’t really expect too much from. That’s “Adopt a Highway“. It’s not a cheerful or action-rich film. I really expected a depressing drama. And even though there’s a moving moral in it, you can say there’s also another hidden message in this film. A message of hope, compassion, and modesty.

The introduction shows how Russell Millings (Ethan Hawke) leaves prison after being imprisoned for 21 years. Reluctantly. Somewhat anxious and timid. A man who’s alienated from society and who struggles to keep up with the contemporary pace. Someone who has never used a mobile phone, the internet or e-mail. And all thanks to a short-sighted policy in which someone is sentenced to a heavy sentence when he gets involved in something for the third time. No matter how small the criminal offense is. The so-called “three strikes” legislation. In Russell’s case, it is about owning a few grams of marijuana in the state of California. Something that has become virtually legal after those 21 years. An unreasonable punishment that ensured that he wasn’t given the opportunity to develop into a decent citizen.

Ethan Hawke probably demonstrates his best acting performance here. The way he plays Russell is simply breathtaking. He’s in the spotlight almost constantly. And his clumsy way of conversing and interacting with others is simply sad and pitiful. It’s not clear whether Russell used to be mentally deficient from a young age already or if he got numb from the years of imprisonment. In any case, he’s treated by the official authorities as insignificant and is left to himself a bit. He tries to live an honest life and tries to avoid following the wrong path again. A simple life where he earns a living as a dishwasher in a fast-food chain and sleeps in a motel. Until he discovers the adorable Ella (Savannah Sucher) in a garbage container.

Even though from the outset he realizes that it’s almost impossible for him to take care of a baby, he still hesitates to hand over the lovely baby to the authorities. What follows are touching moments that he experiences with the few-month-old Ella. His ignorance about taking care of a baby and the sense of responsibility that he suddenly experiences, take away the attention of the depressing life that he led until then. Even though Ella’s discovery brings a turning point in Russell’s life, this wasn’t the central theme for me. This helpless and innocent little girl shows gratitude in a spontaneous way. No disinterest, impatience or incomprehension as adults treat him. The most emotional scene is the one on the beach where Russell tells a part of his life story.

“Adopt a Highway” is a melancholic and endearing film that will touch a sensitive nerve with many viewers. Well, in my case it did. Some will call it a corny ending. I thought it was a logical conclusion. An example of humanity. It’s also a film about getting a second chance in life. I was surprised by the Blumhouse logo and I already assumed that this would be a very sinister movie. That’s certainly not the case. The explanation for the Blumhouse connection lies with the director Logan Marshall-Green who appeared last year in the Blumhouse production “Upgrade“. “Adopt a Highway” is, therefore, his debut as a director. And as far as I’m concerned he can certainly direct such a gem again. I’m ready for it.

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Welcome To Marwen (2019) Review By Philip Henry

 

Welcome to Marwen Review

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Robert Zemeckis, Caroline Thompson
Stars: Steve Carell, Merritt Wever, Leslie Mann

When the director of one of the biggest and most beloved movies of all time releases a new film it should be an event, but this quirky oddity passed under most fans’ radar and was in and out of the multiplexes before they could say, ‘Great Scott!’ And that’s a shame because it’s a very clever and touching addition to Zemeckis’s CV.

Steve Carell plays Mark Hogencamp, the victim of a homophobic attack that almost killed him and has left him with memory problems and severe PTSD. Mark used to be a comic-book artist, but since the attack he can barely write his name, so he’s found a new way to channel his artistic urges by making stop-motion films with action figures and a camera. The fact that this is all based on a true story gives the film gravitas and makes you sympathise with Carell’s character so much faster.

The problem is Mark’s hobby is starting to take over his life. He’s built a whole town square for these dolls in his back yard and plays out various World War II scenarios with his little troupe of plastic actors in this town he calls Marwen. But the town of Marwen and its inhabitants are slowly creeping inside his house too, and thanks to the PTSD and the drug regime he is on, Mark is starting to lose sight of what’s real and what isn’t.

This film flopped badly when it came out. It cost $39M and took only $12.9M worldwide, but I think this is a fault of the marketing more than the film itself. When I first saw the trailer I thought it was something on a par with Spielberg’s Tin-Tin movie. That was a movie I watched and just thought: ‘Why?’ Why did they go to the trouble of motion-capturing and animating everyone when it would have been quicker, cheaper and better to just use live actors? It seemed like a gimmick; another clip for ILM’s showreel. To paraphrase Jurassic Park’s Ian Malcolm, ‘They were so busy asking if they could do it, they didn’t stop to think if they should do it.’ I thought Welcome to Marwen was going to be more of the same, only using Action Man (or GI Joes if you want to be American about it) type figures to tell a war story. It isn’t.

This isn’t a film for kids, but on seeing the trailer most adults probably thought it was, so neither group ended up seeing it. Hence the flop.

The fantasy sequences are renditions of Mark’s own stop-motion films and they only take up a small portion of the screen time. The film is really about a man using his fantasy world to cope with PTSD, with the WWII sequences very cleverly showing the battle going on inside his own mind.

Zemeckis is a master of big FX-laden movies, and though this has some fantastical elements, it’s essentially a small story about one man and his group of friends, but the director still delivers an amazing emotional climax. I actually got chills during the third act, and that’s not something that happens to me a lot nowadays, but the drama and tension were so expertly built I was right there with Hogie as he faced his demons.

It’s a very sweet film with a great visual representation of the effects of PTSD. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but even the darker aspects of the story are handled with such a deft touch so they never cross that line into bleak drama. And if that’s not enough to convince you, the Back to the Future references will put a big dopey grin on your face, I guarantee you.

Despite its poor box office showing I think this is a film that will be appreciated in years to come when enough people find it on their home screens.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019) Movie Review By John Walsh

 

El Camino

Director: Vince Gilligan
Writers: Vince Gilligan, Vince Gilligan (based on “Breaking Bad” by)
Stars: Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks, Matt Jones

It’s been six long years since ‘Felina’ aired, bringing the journey of Walter White and co to an emotional conclusion. To say that Breaking Bad is one of the greatest television shows to have ever been created would be a fairly uncontentious argument, with the excellent spin-off Better Call Saul series only further enhancing the overall mysticism surrounding the ‘brand’ for lack of a better word. Vince Gilligan also did the seemingly impossible and remarkable job of bringing the whole thing to an unbearable crescendo, whilst simultaneously tying up the major characters arcs in a manner that felt, at the very least, satisfying for the ever burgeoning fan base at the time.

There is perhaps one exception to that nigh on perfect finale and that is the way Jesse (Aaron Paul) abruptly sped away in that magnificent El Camino of Todd’s, crashing through the gates and emotionally off of our screens. A sizeable proportion of viewers were left disappointed by the departure, with his final appearances on the show dominated by scenes of torture and emotional blackmail, many felt he deserved better. Sure, it was still decently handled, he finally meted out poetic justice upon his tormentor in chief Todd (Jesse Plemons) and even bowed out on an amicable terms with Walter, but after the series of emotional gut punches he suffered over the years, it felt a little underwhelming.

In fairness to Vince Gilligan, however, Breaking Bad was never supposed to be the Jesse Pinkman show. It was about Walter’s descent from middle class benevolence into the ruthless brutality of a drug kingpin. It was about showcasing the hidden potential for malevolence within us all. He created the aforementioned Better Call Saul to further flesh out the travails of Saul Goodman, giving the magnificent Bob Odenkirk ample opportunity to do his thing, whilst drawing fans back into the familiar setting of New Mexico and with the secretive arrival of El Camino, this time he’s doing the same with Aaron Paul.

It was with a heady mixture of caution and anticipation, though mostly the latter in truth, that I sat down to watch the next chapter of Jesse Pinkman. Netflix have a spotted history with original content, but when you have Vince Gilligan writing the script and helming the movie, there was never any danger that it would be anything other than brilliant. And brilliant it truly is.

The action picks up right from when the series finale ended, Jesse is screeching out the compound in the El Camino before he’s forced to swerve into a driveway to avoid the oncoming deluge of police cars that arrive even as Walter lies dying in the meth lab. He thinks quickly and hooks up with his two friends, Skinny (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt L. Jones), who seeing him in a terrible state, offer some temporary refuge and a means of incognito transportation that sets the events of the movie in motion. A fresher looking, shaved head and stubble sporting Jesse is ‘reborn’ the next day and sets off with a seeming plan to escape the clutches of the law.

He’s still a haunted man however and this is perfectly encapsulated by numerous flashback sequences. They act as a visual catalyst for Jesse, fuelling the decision and actions that follow in the days that transpire after his escape, but also allow the viewer to access to the depths he has plummeted during his captivity. It honestly could be the most intelligent mixture of flashbacks and present day imagery that I’ve seen utilised in many a year. It weaves flawlessly around Jesse’s horrible predicament, or should that be plural because the whole film is one big, horrible predicament, effectively visualising the extent of the emotional trauma inflicted upon him at the hands of Todd and his uncles white supremacist group of opportunistic goons.

We the audience should already be on his side, of course, but if for some idiotic reason you haven’t watched Breaking Bad, and please believe me when I say that you should, and decide to see this first as a potential precursor to doing so, then it will certainly make you empathise with him and subsequently enjoy the karma he dishes out to the remaining ‘bitches’ that remain of Todd’s extended group. It’s a tried and tested storytelling technique harnessed by Gilligan that we’ve seen utilised as recently as a few weeks back in Rambo: Last Blood, where the depravity of the antagonist is established early, setting up the final act payback. It made for a gratifying viewing experience with the latter and it does so again here.

Aaron Paul is a talented man that has made some poor choices over the last six years, never truly capitalising on the hype of his appearance in Breaking Bad. We’ve seen that the guy can act and he proves it again here. His character goes through the emotional ringer in around 120 minutes of running time, portraying all the heartache of a man that’s been kicked in the proverbial balls and who’s at his lowest ebb with ease. He confidently carries the movie with a very assured performance and you get the sense it’s a homecoming for the actor, like slipping into a perfectly broken in pair of Red Wings. Quite frankly, I wanted more of the performance, the story and the character. But sometimes less is more and maybe that’s the case here.

The other star turn in El Camino is Jesse Plemons. It feels like this guy has appeared in just about every Oscar nominated movie in the last five years and never seems to get the praise he deserves. He’s an incredible actor and I actually forgot how annoying his character was in the final season of the show. A sycophantic, Heisenberg wannabe with a psychotic nasty streak to boot. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed his interloping into the proceedings. The overwhelming majority of the flashbacks featured him and yet despite the permanent presence of manipulation and Stockholm Syndrome he tried his best to foster, there was actually a couple of dark comedic moments involving a corpse, him and Jesse that were a real standout. I’m not entirely sure how much new footage he shot or how much was unused from his stint on the show, but he’s by far the best of the rest in this movie.

I’m absolutely delighted to say too that Walt does make an appearance. I love Bryan Cranston and it would’ve felt odd not to have him in there, even if the lengthly scene was an archival, cast off from the first season. Gilligan clearly had it mind for a long time, perhaps even prior to writing the script and wanted it in there, which is good enough for me. I’ve seen criticism of it’s inclusion but it worked for me on two levels. For one, it highlighted the journey our protagonist has been on since that diner chat, how much he’s developed and matured in the ensuing years, but it also reaffirmed that Jesse wasn’t some idiot resigned to a perpetual life of crime. Even back then he had potential away from the drug game, which Walter astutely recognises.

I get the sense that Vince Gilligan himself was annoyed by the abrupt nature of Pinkman’s ending. I mean why else would he go out his way to make a two hour, direct continuation of the finale if not to right a perceived wrong? The heart of the story after all is that Jesse must deal with the demons of his past before he can find inner peace and start a new life in the wilderness of Alaska. Or maybe I’m just looking into things too much again? I do have previous for it. One things for sure though, El Camino is the Breaking Bad ‘sequel’ that fans wanted and it does offer another tantalising look into that world we were all transfixed by for years, whilst finally delivering proper emotional and fulfilling closure for one of its primary protagonists.

If you’re a fan of the show then it’s an absolute must watch.

Rating: A

Light Of My Life (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

 

Light of my Life

Director: Casey Affleck
Writer: Casey Affleck
Stars: Anna Pniowsky, Casey Affleck, Tom Bower

Based on his onscreen persona, Casey Affleck could possibly be the most miserable guy on the planet. I don’t recall the last time he played someone who wasn’t the walking definition of melancholy. But hey, it won him an Oscar, so I guess it’s working for him.

So it should come as no surprise that his first film as a writer-director would be conducive to his attributes. Light of My Life is a relentlessly gloomy post-apocalyptic drama in which a plague has killed almost every female in the world and civilization is more-or-less in shambles. Affleck is the fiercely-protective father of a young daughter, Rag (Anna Pniowsky), who he disguises as a boy for her own safety.

A majority of the film has them trekking through the stark, cold wilderness, occasionally finding abandoned homes for temporary shelter and only venturing to populated areas when necessary. Most of what we learn about these two – as well as the cataclysmic plague – come through conversations when they’re alone together. Rag has a lot of questions, mostly about human nature, some of which Dad can answer, others he can’t. He is also increasingly aware that as she approaches womanhood, it will increasingly difficult to keep up their ruse.

Very similar in concept, tone and pace to The Road, Light of My Life is relentlessly bleak and pessimistic, the only respites from the constant despair being Dad & Rag’s bedtime stories. In fact, the opening 10 minutes in which he puts his spin on the tale of Noah’s Ark is about as sunny as things get. Elsewhere, the narrative advances very slowly, which is effective when showing how society has pretty-much come to a stand-still.

However, there are long stretches where nothing really happens. Affleck’s typically laconic performance suits the mood and young Pniowski is a revelation, but aside from a few flashbacks, we learn little about these characters. That might be deliberate, but misery for misery’s sake can be a challenge to endure without more personal investment in who’s doing the suffering.

Still, Light of My Life is well made and, despite its languorous pace, comes to genuinely suspenseful, unexpectedly violent climax. Affleck also makes good use of locations to paint an effectively dreary picture, sort of reshaping the world as an extension of his own image. It definitely feels derivative of The Road, but if that film gave you hankering for more hopelessness, here’s a second helping.

Blinded By The Light (2019) Review By Philip Henry

 

Blinded By The Light Review

Director: Gurinder Chadha
Writers: Paul Mayeda Berges, Sarfraz Manzoor & Gurinder Chadha, inspired by the words & music of Bruce Springsteen.
Stars: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams, Hayley Atwell

We’ve been spoiled for choice this year by British movies about rock icons, but this is a very different animal to Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman. This isn’t a biopic of Bruce Springsteen but The Boss’s music does provide the inspiration for our lead character to change his life and dream bigger.

It’s 1987 and teenager Javed seems to have his whole life mapped out by his father. His dad tells him which career paths are acceptable and tells him he will find his son a wife when the time is right. The members of the family who work give their wages to the father without a second thought. Javed wants to carve his own path in life, but in Pakistani tradition, the father is the head of the house and his word is law.

But then a chance meeting at school with another student introduces Javed to the music of Bruce Springsteen, and to say he embraces it wholeheartedly would be an understatement. Springsteen’s music and lyrics show Javed the poetry of everyday lives, of quiet heroes, and working class dignity. Pretty soon, those dreams Javed had of being a writer seem a lot closer and more attainable.

It’s a very sweet coming of age story that I really empathised with. When I discovered music in my teenage years it was a revelation, and I always thought I got more out of it then most people. Music wasn’t just something that played in the background, it had something to say to me, personally, and that’s the same feeling that grips our young hero. This music teaches him to think, to dream, and to challenge his father’s preconceptions of who and what he should be.

The film evokes the 80s with real joy. Anyone who grew up in that era will smile when they see sweets, foods and drinks (who remembers Top Deck!) associated with the decade. These little touches add so much to the overall look and feel of the story. There’s also a great soundtrack – it’s not all Springsteen – and the fashions and cars add the finishing touches. This film gave me a peek inside a culture I admit I know very little about. It’s not all big hair and walkmans playing cassettes, the racism that was rife in Thatcher’s Britain is addressed and shines a light on how Pakistani families were treated during the height of the National Front’s hate campaign. I wish I could say it shows how far we’ve come but recent events show it’s not nearly far enough.

The film doesn’t have a huge third act finale, but since this screenplay is based on a true story I suppose what happens is what happened. It’s quite a talky, yet still emotional, ending that provides closure to the coming of age arc, and the final shot did bring a lump to my throat.

Viveik Kalra is fantastic, proving a likeable and engaging lead. He has the acting chops to make you share his wonder as the lyrics of New Jersey’s finest fill his head, heart and soul, as well as bringing a lump to your throat when things go awry. His love interest is Nell Williams, who played the young Cersei Lannister in season five of Game of Thrones. She plays a teen activist embarrassed by her Tory parents (and rightly so), and throws herself into the spirit of the thing with another strong performance. There’s some familiar faces in the supporting cast too, like Captain America’s Peggy Carter – Hayley Atwell, and TV favourites Rob Brydon and Sally Phillips.

I think most people consider Bend It Like Beckham to be Gurinder Chadha’s best film. Since I don’t have any interest in football it never really scored with me… not like this one did. This is a film I suspect I will watch many more times, and if you’ve ever heard a song and thought it was being sung just for you, you should watch it too.

Despite some dark themes and moments, the overall feeling this film left me with was a joyful one. It will make you laugh, smile, and maybe even break into a spontaneous dance (in the dark?) wearing your orange headphones. I’m only a moderate fan of Springsteen but even I came home and stuck on the Born in the USA album because this film’s enthusiasm is infectious.

The Kitchen (2019) Movie Review By The Moviie Couple

 

The Kitchen Review

Director: Andrea Berloff
Writers: Ollie Masters (comic book series), Ming Doyle (comic book series)
Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss 

Moviie Couple here!   We went out and watched The Kitchen this Friday!  Remember we are just a married couple that loves movies!  We’re here to tell you if we liked it.  Film experts we are not! Just a quick reminder of our rating system.   Mrs. Moviie Couple and I, rate films on whether they are worth the cash spent on a night out.  we use a 1-6 Dollar Bill system.  1-2 Bills equal a waste of both our time and money!  3-4 Bills equal Meh to Pretty Good, money well spent!  5-6 Bills equal Wow!  Well worth the price of dinner, movie and sitter!  Please take our money again!

The Kitchen adapts a 2015 DC/Vertigo comic book series written by Ollie Masters and Illustrated by Ming Doyle to the silver screen.  The film, like the comic before it, tells a tale of three mob wives in the 1970’s as they rise in power over Hell’s Kitchen Manhattan while their husbands are off serving time in prison.  Utilising some brains and old school chutzpah, the trio quickly fill a void left by an inept mafioso made-man left in charge.  The trio of enterprising 70’s ladies are played by Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss.  Directed by first time director, Andrea Belloff, we follow the growth of these three friends in a world not ready or willing to embrace female empowerment.  Growth, alliances, twists and of course violence ensue!  Can the women break the mob glass ceiling?  Are they prepared to take on a world they only knew from the periphery?  Are they prepared to pay the price a life in this world costs?  Well we don’t spoil here at Moviie Couple so why don’t we just let you know if it’s worth watching in order to find these answers for yourself or is it better to wait and watch on the couch?  So grab a pack of smokes, crank up your eight cylinder gas guzzler and hit play on your eight track while you turn up The Chain by Fleetwood Mac (Man is that song used in every 70 era picture or what?)it’s time to find out if The Kitchen is an offer we can’t refuse!

Mr. Moviie Couple:  The title of this movie, The Kitchen, refers to Hell’s Kitchen New York and probably serves as a double meaning, as most men in this film, and probably many of that era, still felt a woman’s place was in the kitchen and not much more, but it made me think of Mrs. Moviie Couple and myself.  You see, you can have the same perfect ingredients and have us both follow the same recipe, but inevitably, Mrs Moviie Couple will produce a masterpiece of a meal.  On the other hand, I would produce a nightmare of a meal, I simply can’t cook.  This film had a perfect set of ingredients, a fantastic trio of actors in McCarthy, Haddish and Moss all doing good work, but the end result was less than appetising.  To this end, I have to blame the cooks, or in this case Director Andrea Belloff, who not only directed but also wrote the adaptation for the screen.

This film wants to be a Goodmamas or a The Godmother but it never comes close.  The plot happens at a super fast pace  When the women put their plan in motion, everything happens with an ease and quickness that seems far fetched at best and unbelievable at worst.  Any attempt at challenge or suspense rising against our heroines is never really sustained.   When danger or consequences do come to light, they are addressed and handled just as quickly as they appeared.  There was no time for any dread or fear to build up at any point. These faults lie solely at the feet of the directing and screenwriting, which unfortunately belongs to the same person.  The one attempt at a twist comes out of nowhere and I’m willing to bet was developed with the right amount of time in the comic book version rather than the last minute explanation we get late in the third act here.  Sorry, again no spoilers!

So in conclusion I certainly admired the performances we get here. McCarthy shines as a mother running out of choices to help her family, but never running away.  Haddish also gives a subdued (for her) performance and shows a quiet intensity that she usually doesn’t require in her comedic offerings.  Both these women, known mostly for their popular comedian personas really step it up here in The Kitchen.  Moss shines the brightest as a mousey victim of domestic violence, that not only grows and fights back, but emerges from her cocoon of abuse as a butterfly to be feared by any and all.  It also must be said that Domhnall Gleeson, known mostly as General Hux, in the new Star Wars movies, gives us a surprising and outstanding show as the ladies enforcer and confidant Gabriel.  He is fantastic in a supporting role.

Despite some really great acting jobs, the movie is a bit of a let down.  Too short, too fast, it never gives itself enough time to simmer and soak in all the 1970’s atmosphere or to let us actually feel the fear that these women were facing each and every day.  Like a meal rushed rather than properly prepared, the Kitchen needed more time and care.  You can eat it and taste the possibilities, but you probably should have ordered take out.  I give the Kitchen 2.5 Bills.  Just barely above a waste of my time and money.  Without the stellar performances it would have been even less.

Mrs. Moviie Couple:  Hi, everybody!!  The trailer really had me excited for this one!  The Godfather meets Charlie’s Angels!  I was all set!  Right up my alley, so did it live up to the hype?

The acting from the three main ladies was TOP NOTCH!  Melissa was excellent in exuding humble, sweet, loving Mom and Wife, but also capable of taking control whenever necessary!  Tiffany was fantastic as a no nonsense, tough cookie that was a consummate team player, but ready at a drop of a dime to handle things her own way!  Elisabeth played a girl with the kindest, sweetest disposition who due to her abusive past ultimately finds her “inner voice” and with that freedom finally becomes a force to be reckoned with!

Even though I enjoyed the idea of the women taking charge, I found the story to have many flaws.  It was very choppy and cut from scene to scene without warning or need.  It all seemed to get resolved instantly and with only minimal pain or suffering. Most of the characters that don’t make it, seemed to have it coming one way or another.  Very unrealistic.

Its a shame the story couldn’t live up to the strength of the three lead actors.  This seemed more like an old TV show from the 1970’s where everything works out in the end and all in under one hour!
For all those reasons, I will be giving the Kitchen 3 Bills.  The actresses and women movie-goers everywhere deserved a better film.  I definitely felt like it was a little better than wasting my money and much closer to Meh.  Sad because I was looking forward to this one so much!

On the way home, we talked about how disappointed we both were.  We both enjoyed the trailer so much and were expecting more than we got from the final product.  Mrs. Moviie Couple even told me we should have went to see Dora, WOW!    My 2.5 Bills and the Mrs. 3 Bills, gives us a solid 2.5 Bills for The Kitchen, not at all what we were expecting.  A confirmed waste of both time and money.

So until next time, remember trailers can be deceiving!  Not every film that looks good comes through on the promise!  Be sure to check out our Twitter or Facebook for a clue to our next movie review.  Mr. & Mrs. Moviie Couple out!