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MOVIES WITH DAVE

 

I guess the single movie last week was just to give me a breather, because this time they decided to drop four films in one weekend.

We have a movie about a teenager with a gun from outer space, a mystery with a father searching for his missing daughter all set inside a computer screen, a period horror flick set in the 1940s involving a rundown 18th century estate, and a film based on the true story of the capture of one of the masterminds behind Holocaust.

Let’s get right to them.

***

First up is “Kin.”

Chased by a vengeful criminal (James Franco), the police, and a gang of otherworldly soldiers, a recently released ex-con Jimmy (Jack Reynor), and his adopted teenage brother Elijah (Myles Truitt) are forced to go on the run with a weapon of mysterious origin as their only protection.

I’m really not sure what to make of this movie.

I don’t hate the concept of the story. The dynamic of two brothers on the lam, doing everything they can to avoid the cops and James Franco, has the potential to make for an interesting story.

Unfortunately one of those brothers is written as an unsympathetic, unlikable moron.

I hated Jack Reynor’s character here. It seems like everytime he’s forced to make some kind of decision, he does the dumbest thing he can possibly think of.

In the film Reynor owes Franco $60,000 for keeping him alive in prison for six years.

At first I thought it was a ridiculous number. But then as the movie went on and revelived what an utter buffoon Reynor’s character was it all started to make sense.

He truly has a gift to do precisely the worst thing in any given situation.

Franco probably had to pay off every single guard and inmate just to prevent them all from bashing his head in for all 2000 plus days.

Frankly what Franco accomplished was a miracle. Keeping someone that thick headed alive for a week would be impressive, much less six years.

It’s little wonder Dennis Quaid, Reynor’s father in the movie, doesn’t want his younger son anywhere near his halfwit dolt of a brother.

Then there’s the baffling addition of sci-fi elements in this movie.

They give the younger brother an amazingly powerful gun pretty early on in the movie, but he does absolutely nothing with it until the movie’s nearly halfway over.

I was wondering if it was even going to amount to anything, until the younger brother is finally  forced to use the space gun to prevent his idiot sibling from getting his face rearranged.

Plus, as if the cops and a murderous James Franco wasn’t enough to worry about, there’s also a couple masked futuristic looking soldiers after the brothers too.

Not to worry though, they matter even less to the overall plot then the space gun does.

Honestly, the sci-fi aspects were so badly incorporated they could have removed the space gun, nixed pleather clad soldiers, and told the same basic story without losing much of anything.

That is at least, up until the bizarre twist ending.

I don’t want to spoil the details, but the final scene is so poorly set up and so out of left field, I felt like I had whiplash afterwards.

Not only that, but it shamelessly teases a sequel to this trainwreck of a film. As if anyone wants to see the continuing adventures of space gun boy and his bonehead brother.

If I had anything positive to say about this movie, I guess the cinematography is above average, at least if you like a ton of narrow-focused closeups.

Also the background music was surprisingly decent for movie this sub-par.

Neither element make it worth spending a single dime to see this film though.

Don’t be fooled by the futuristic looking poster. If you’re looking for sci-fi entertainment, you will leave this movie very disappointed.

“Kin” is rated PG-13.

***

Next is “Searching.”

After David Kim’s (John Cho) 16-year-old daughter Margot (Michelle La) goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective is assigned to the case.

Desperate for any leads, David breaks into Margot’s laptop, but while trying to piece together his daughter’s whereabouts, he discovers how little he actually knew about his own child.

This is the second film I’ve seen in five weeks where the entire movie is set on computer screens.

I have to admit, after sitting through both “Unfriended” and it’s recent sequel “Unfriended: Dark Web,” I didn’t really have terribly high hopes for yet another movie set on someone’s laptop.

Sure, I enjoyed both “Unfriended” films for what they were, incredibly dumb, poorly acted movies, with a shocking attention to detail when it comes to technology.

Well I’m happy to report that my low expectations were completely obliterated by this film.

This movie is sensational.

The first thing the film does is hit you with a heartbreaking montage of Margot growing up, all shown inside a Windows XP PC, including period accurate websites and software.

Just like in “Unfriended,” the level of detail they go into on the computer side of things is incredible, but here they actually match the well thought out setting with some solid cinematography to go along with it.

You aren’t just staring at the screen, you’re being sucked in.

Just like in every other movie, camera work is vital to show the audience what to focus on. It’s amazing how even simple pans, zooms, and transitions can enhance or change the feeling of a scene.

I was shocked how captivated I was by this film.

A large amount of credit for that goes to John Cho, who is absolutely fantastic here.

There’s so much emotion packed into his performance, you can’t help but feel for him.

Even when he goes off the rails and does something reckless, you still sympathize with him. Heck, I’d probably go crazy too if I had a daughter who had just turned up missing.

But even with the devastating circumstances of the movie, the filmmakers still managed to cleverly fit in a few comedy beats here and there.

I loved the added detail of showing the dad type out his messages in Facebook or iMessage and half the time deleting or rewording them as he thinks over what he’s trying to say.

Not only is it a good way of showing what the character is feeling, but for me it was also incredibly relatable.

I don’t know about any of you, but it seems like I delete half or more of the messages or emails I type out.

Sometimes it takes seeing it all written out in front of you to notice the kind of fool you’d be making of yourself if you actually sent it.

I loved the experience of this movie from beginning to end.

It takes the setting of “Unfriended” and creates something 1000 times more compelling out of it.

If you’re dying for a good mystery that keeps you guessing up until the very last minute, this film is a must see.

Don’t let the fact that the whole film takes place entirely on someone’s computer screen prevent you from checking it out

This is the movie to see this weekend. I don’t even care if you read my other reviews. If you aren’t watching “Searching,” you’re missing out.

“Searching” is rated PG-13.

Third is “The Little Stranger.”

Set the late 1940s, this film follows Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Glee-son), a respectable country doctor called to see a patient at Hundreds Hall, an 18th century estate Faraday has admired since he was a boy.

Home to the Ayres family for two centuries, the estate is now in decline, and its inhabitants (Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter, and Charlotte Rampling) are haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life.

This sounds like the premise to a horror movie, right?

That’s the impression I got from the trailer too.

It has the ominous music, a creepy old house, talk of a haunting, serving bells ringing for no reason, mysterious writing on the walls.

Definitely sounds like a horror movie.

So it really threw me off when this movie ended up feeling more like a historical drama like “Down-ton Abbey” rather than anything remotely scary.

Yes, the horror elements are there. On paper this sounds like a horror movie, but the presentation is nothing of the sort.

It’s not that “The Little Stranger” fails to be scary like so many other poorly conceived horror films are, it’s that it’s not even trying to be.

I’m honestly not quite sure what to make of it. The film isn’t even terribly unsettling beyond a couple bloody scenes here and there.

At least it’s nothing close to something like “Hereditary,” which came out earlier this year.

To me this film feels more like a melancholy lamenting the death of old British estates like Hundreds Hall.

The house is visibly decaying and it’s like its residents are crumbling along with it.

But instead of deteriorating outwardly, the poor Ayres family is decaying mentally.

Surprisingly though, despite not being all that scary of a horror movie or even terribly eventful, I found myself enjoying the film more than I thought I would.

Yes, the pace is slow. Incredibly slow at times in fact, but it was still strangely compelling.

The characters are interesting, the performances are respectable, and the mystery behind what’s actually happening at Hundreds Hall kept me curious to see what would happen next.

And later on the movie does start doing a bit more conventional horror stuff. Not much, but there’s a couple scenes here and there.

Plus the film has above average cinematography. Lots of narrow focus close ups, just like “Kin,” the movie I saw earlier oddly enough, but much more competently executed as a whole.

All that said though, I don’t know that I’d actually recommend this movie to anyone.

It’s way too slow and there isn’t nearly enough scares for more conventional horror fans.

If I wasn’t so hopped up on caffeine at the time, I could have definitely seen myself nodding off a few times during the movie.

Maybe if you’re a huge fan of the “Downton Abbey” setting, and you like your horror movies extremely subdued, this might be the film for you.

Otherwise, this is a decent, but slow moving film without much of an audience.

“The Little Stranger” is rated R.

***

Last this week is “Operation Finale.”

Fifteen years after the end of World War II, Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad launch a daring top-secret raid into Argentina, lead by agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac), to capture the notorious Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), the Nazi officer who masterminded the Holocaust.

I have mixed feelings about this movie.

The story is an interesting one on paper and it’s all based on actual events to boot.

The performances are also solid across the board, with Oscar Isaac and especially Ben Kingsley both imparting a lot of humanity to each of their roles.

Despite all that though, I could not for the life of me keep my eyes open during the first half of this movie.

All the planning, all the details that went into hatching this operation didn’t hold my interest one bit.

This movie really wanted to be another “Argo,” Ben Affleck’s film about the U.S. and Canadian hostage rescue from Iran back in 1979.

They both certainly have a similar feel and both are about government agencies performing covert operations on foreign soil.

But the characters in “Operation Finale” aren’t nearly as engaging they are in “Argo” and the story here just isn’t made to be nearly as intriguing.

It wasn’t until the second half of the film, with Isaac’s and Kingsley’s scenes together, that the movie finally started becoming interesting to me

And even then I’m not exactly sure what to think of how the filmmakers portrayed these characters, especially Adolf Eichmann.

Disturbingly, the most sympathetic character in the film is actually Eichmann, the mastermind of the Holocaust himself.

The movie does a fantastic job of humanizing the man quoted as saying he would ”leap laughing into the grave because the feeling that he had five million people on his conscience would be for him a source of extraordinary satisfaction.”

They let the former Nazi officer make his entire case in this movie. That he shouldn’t be held accountable for all the Jewish deaths because he was just following orders.

I get it. In real life Peter Mal-kin was surprised to discover that Eichmann wasn’t quite the monster he had imagined. And that made his actions during the war even more disturbing.

But they do a horrible job of expressing that idea in this film.

Instead they make Eichmann a likeable person up until nearly the very end where suddenly he turns into a mustache twirling villain, saying how much he enjoyed the idea of being responsible for the death of someone close to Peter Malkin.

When a Nazi, especially one that was a major organizer behind the Holocaust, feels out of character by talking about how much he loves killing Jews, you failed horribly somewhere in the screenplay writing phase.

I didn’t hate this movie, like I said before the performances are good, but I definitely have a hard time recommending it in good conscience.

Showing an audience that monstrous acts can come from unexpectedly charming people is certainly a subject worth exploring. The filmmakers here just do an abysmally poor job executing it.

“Operation Finale” is rated PG-13.

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