Synopsis: Anna suffers from agoraphobia so crippling that when a trio of criminals break into her house, she cannot bring herself to flee. But what the intruders don’t realize is that agoraphobia is not her only problem.
Stars: Beth Riesgraf, Martin Starr, Rory Culkin, Leticia Jimenez, Jack Kesy, Joshua Mikel
Director: Adam Schindler
Running Length: 90 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Where to Watch: Xfinity On Demand
Review: When you go to film festivals, it can be a crapshoot as to what you’re going to get. I definitely hemmed and hawed about hauling myself out to attend a 10pm showing of Intruders (back when it was called Shut-In) because there was nothing yet on the net about it. Sometimes if I’m on the fence I’ll do a little recon work to see if it’s something worth the late hours but there was zero, zip, nada information available to help sway me either way. I went in blind.
And so should you.
This review is going to be brief because to divulge even a teeny bit about this clever thriller above and beyond the synopsis above just wouldn’t be right. Don’t be put off by the generic title or poster (clearly ripping off The Cabin in the Woods) or the fact it bypassed theaters and moved directly to streaming platforms. Writers T.J. Cimfel and David White have designed a puzzle box of a movie where nothing is quite as it appears and no one can be trusted. Even the first major twist manages to keep the film afloat and chugging along until the next curveball Cimfel and White pitch at you arrives.
Director Adam Schindler and cinematographer Eric Leach make good use of the cramped quarters, adding enough claustrophobia to keep the tension high. The cast is pretty swell too with Beth Riesgraf strongly leading the way as a would-be robbery victim who turns the tables on some no-goodnicks that have broken in to her secluded home looking for cash. The movie has some squirm inducing moments and several sequences that will have you white-knuckling your armrest, but it’s not a messy gore-fest either.
If you’ve seen Don’t Breathe, Intruders may feel pretty familiar but for my money this is the superior film because it has the subtlety and balance Don’t Breathe lacked. As is almost always the case, the movie begins to run out of steam before the credits roll but it very nearly makes it to the finish line in one piece. There are a few gaps of logic that don’t quite pan out but on the whole the set-up feels solid. A good thing to mention is that I think there’s some replay value here in order to afford audiences the opportunity to go back and pick up on what they missed the first time around.
We did it! We made it through another summer and while the outdoor heat wasn’t too bad (in Minnesota, at least) the box office was on fire.
I’ll admit that I indulged in summer fun a bit more than I should, distracting me from reviewing some key movies over the last three months so I wanted to take this opportunity to relive the summer of 2015, mentioning my thoughts on the movies that got away and analyzing the winners and losers by month and overall.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride read.
Though the summer movie season has traditionally been thought of as Memorial Day through Labor Day, in the past several years studios have marked early May as the start of the summer movie wars and 2015 was no different.
Kicking things off on May 1 was Avengers: Age of Ultron and, as expected, it was a boffo blockbuster that gave fans more Marvel fantasy fun. While it wasn’t as inventive as its predecessor and relied too much on jokey bits, the movie was everything a chartbuster should be: big, loud, worth another look.
Acting as a bit of counter-programming, the next week saw the release of two very different comedies, neither of which made much of a dent in the box office take of The Avengers. Critics gnashed their teeth at the Reese Witherspoon/Sofia Vergara crime comedy Hot Pursuit but I didn’t mind it nearly as much as I thought I would. True, it set smart girl power flicks back a few years but it played well to the strengths of its leads and overall was fairly harmless. I hadn’t heard of The D Train before a screening but was pleasantly surprised how good it turned out to be, considering I’m no fan of Jack Black. The movie has several interesting twists that I didn’t see coming, proving that Black and co-star James Marsden will travel out of their comfort zones for a laugh.
Blythe Danner proved she was more than Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom in the lovely, if slight, I’ll See You in My Dreams. It may be too small a picture to land Danner on the end of the year awards list she deserves but the drama was a welcome change of pace so early in the summer.
Another early May drama was a wonderful adaptation of a classic novel…and one I forgot to review when I had the chance…here’s my brief take on it now…
Movie Review ~ Far From the Madding Crowd The Facts: Synopsis: In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor. Stars: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Juno Temple, Tom Sturridge Director: Thomas Vinterberg Rated: PG-13 Running Length: 119 minutes TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: This adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s celebrated novel was a moving drama brimming with quietly powerful performances and lush cinematography. It’s a story that has been duplicated quite a lot over the years so one could be forgiven for feeling like we’ve seen this all before. Still, in the hands of director Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) and led by stars Carey Mulligan (Inside Llewyn Davis), Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust & Bone), & Michael Sheen (Admission) it stirred deep emotions that felt fresh. Special mention must be made to Craig Armstrong (The Great Gatsby) for his gorgeous score and Charlotte Bruus Christensen for her aforementioned picturesque cinematography. You missed this in the theater, I know you did…it’s out to rent/buy now and you should check it out pronto.
Around mid-May the summer bar of greatness was set with the arrival of Mad Max: Fury Road. The long in development fourth outing (and semi-reboot) of director George Miller’s apocalyptic hero was a movie lovers dream…pushing the boundaries of cinema and filmmaking into new places. A vicious, visceral experience, I can still feel the vibration in my bones from the robust film…a real winner.
The same week that Mad Max came back into our lives, a so-so sequel found its way to the top of the box office. Pitch Perfect 2 was a lazy film that’s as close to a standard cash grab as you could get without outright playing the original film and calling it a sequel. Uninspired and lacking the authenticity that made the first film so fun, it nevertheless made a song in receipts and a third film will be released in the next few years.
Tomorrowland and Poltergeist were the next two films to see the light of day and neither inspired moviegoers enough to gain any traction. Tomorrowland was actually the first film of the summer I saw twice…admittedly because I was curious about a new movie theater with reclining seats that I wanted to try out. As for the movie, the first half was an exciting adventure while the final act was a real mess.
I thought I’d hate the Poltergeist remake way more than I did…but I ended up just feeling bad for everyone involved because the whole thing was so inconsequential that I wished all of that energy had been directed into something of lasting value. While Sam Worthington made for a surprisingly sympathetic lead, the entire tone of the film was off and not even a few neat 3D effects could save it from being a waste.
May went out with a boom thanks to two wildly different films. If you asked me what I thought the prospects were for San Andreas before the screening I would have replied that Sia’s cover of California Dreamin’ would be the only good thing to come out of the action picture starring everyone’s favorite muscle with eyes, Dwayne Johnson. I still feel like Sia came out on top but the movie itself was a more than decent disaster epic, a little too long but made up for it with grand sequences of mayhem and destruction. Can’t imagine it will play nearly as well on a small screen but I wasn’t hating the film when the credits rolled.
A film I wasn’t too thrilled with at all was Aloha, Cameron Crowe’s own personal disaster flick. I still don’t know quite what to say about the movie because it was so dreadful that I’ve attempted to clear it from my memory. What I do remember was that it wasted its strong cast and exotic locale, as well as our time. Truly terrible.
Synopsis: A widow and former songstress discovers that life can begin anew at any age
Stars: Blythe Danner, Mary Kay Place, Martin Starr, Sam Elliot, June Squibb, Reid Scott, Malik Akerman, Rhea Perlman
Director: Brett Haley
Running Length: 92 minutes
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
Review: Screening movies can be an interesting experiment in timing. Between seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron and Mad Max: Fury Road (two gigantic movies in scope and sound) I caught a preview of the quiet drama I’ll See You in My Dreams. The title alone lulled me into a slight slumber and I’ll admit to being this close to “resting my eyes” on several occasions…but I’ll admit that by the time the credits rolles I found the film to be a nice change of pace from the current cinematic offerings and features a lovely star turn from its leading lady.
I’ve always liked Blythe Danner and appreciated that in her later years she’s not merely known as “Gwyneth Paltrow’s Mom” but had continued to find roles that showcase her well. I met Danner in New York nearly a decade ago after her stellar performance in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies and was struck not only by her dynamic onstage presence but how radiantly beautiful she was up close and personal (something I can’t say for some actors I’ve met over the years).
The film is nearly a one-woman show as Danner (The Lucky One) anchors every scene of the movie she’s in (which is every one of ‘em) whether sharing it with one or more members of its pleasant supporting cast or going it solo playing a long-time widow retired to Florida. Though she doesn’t live in one of the numerous retirement communities the state has to offer, she still makes it out to the weekly bridge game held at a local senior palace with her spry friends played by Mary Kay Place (The Big Chill), June Squibb (Nebraska), and Rhea Perlman (The Sessions).
Focusing on two burgeoning relationships: a friendship with her pool boy (Martin Starr, This Is the End), and a romance with a newly arrived hunk (Sam Elliot, Draft Day) the movie develops at its own pace and takes its time to highlight the feelings both men stir in Danner’s independent character. A strength in the screenplay from Bret Haley (who also directs) and Marc Basch is that they’ve crafted Danner’s widow not as someone lacking something in her later years but excited at the prospect that a new adventure she never expected may be awaiting her.
Truly, it’s a piffle of a movie and feels perhaps too small for a big screen but it’s wonderfully acted and conveyed with a sensitivity toward those in their golden years that know it gets greater later. Even a phony-feeling section where Danner and her pals toke up on medical marijuana gets a pass from this citic because the four ladies play it with such verve. A truly special scene finds Danner and Starr in a barely populated karaoke bar where Danner delivers a tender rendition “Cry Me a River”.
So far this summer the movies have been appropriately gonzo but unexpectedly overwhelming which has led to a decided fatigue even before the previews have ended. If you’re looking for a respite from the flash, give I’ll See You in My Dreams your time instead.
Review: The Red-Band trailer for This Is The End was tough to get through – don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problem with crude language or content but I always appreciate something of substance to back it up with and I wasn’t sure that the rest of This Is The End would be able to support the foul-mouthed tangents that would surely come with the film. So I was pretty apprehensive going into a screening of the new film from Evan Goldberg and star Seth Rogen because I didn’t want to be the only one not laughing for two hours.
Turns out, I laughed a lot in the film though a day later I feel kinda bad about it. Playing like the longest Funny or Die Video ever, This Is The End has moments of comedic glory that are pinned between vile nonsensical tangents (a two minute discussion over who defaced James Franco’s Penthouse Magazine goes on precisely one minute and fifty-eight seconds too long), questionable special effects, and an entire set-up that flames out long before the credits roll.
The first twenty minutes of the film are so very meta with Seth Rogen picking up visiting friend Jay Baruchel at the airport ready for a weekend together. Seth brings Jay over to James Franco’s housewarming party where they meet Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and a host of other famous faces from the same circle these actors travel in (if you’re a fan of Freaks and Geeks you’ll be in heaven). Everyone is playing themselves (or a movie version of themselves) and there’s some laughs to be had from seeing how certain actors behave when they aren’t in front of the camera. Warning: fans of Michael Cera better brace themselves for a few visuals they won’t be able to un-see. Another warning: if 90’s boy bands give you hives you’d better taken your allergy medicine because there’s a great cameo at the end that was pretty hysterical.
After those first twenty minutes, an apocalypse happens…literally. Now, holed up in James Franco’s fortress of a house, Rogen, Baruchel, Robinson, Hill, and Danny McBride must band/bond together to face the end of days together. Along the way they get a visit from Emma Watson (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), perform an exorcism on Hill, and wax poetic about everything from Milky Way’s to the trust between friends.
There’s a lot of big ideas and interesting moments in the film but it’s all covered with a frat-boy slime that starts to wear thin pretty fast. Fans of the actors will find a lot to like here and any/all weed jokes are covered – including a home movie filmed sequel to Pineapple Express that for some may be worth the price of admission.
Still, there’s something to be said for a little bit of restraint and I couldn’t get over the notion that this would have been a lot funnier if it were a viral video making the rounds (not surprising this was based on a short viral video…go figure!) rather than a full length feature that can’t quite make it over the finish line. That may all sound like I’m being a big ‘ole fuddy-duddy and I probably am. Like I said, I guffawed with the best of them and found a lot of the more offensive material to be laughably over-the-top. With The Hangover Part III releasing in May, June’s This Is The End may be exactly what Dr. Feelgood ordered for moviegoers that need some extra party time this summer.