Movie Review ~ Last Survivors

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A father and son living off the grid for 20 years encounter an outsider who threatens to destroy the utopia they’ve built.

Stars: Drew Van Acker, Alicia Silverstone, Stephen Moyer

Director: Drew Mylrea

Rated: NR

Running Length: 98 minutes

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review: Here’s a well-made, quiet, and curious movie for all you out there willing to stick around for some payoff after what appears to be an initial suggestion of a film that’s quite different than what it winds up being.  Last Survivors wasn’t a film that was on my radar and is a rarity in that it sort of just plopped into my lap unexpectedly.  Once I heard it had Alicia Silverstone (aka an occupant of a top slot of The MN Movie Man Will See Anything X Actor is In List) as one of the three leads, a viewing was a forgone conclusion. When I finally did get around to watching it, I was surprised not just that I sort of liked this strange mix of wilderness thriller and drama, but just how well made it was.

One of the first things you’ll see in Last Survivors is a bare butt, and while I’m not sure it’s star Drew Van Acker’s gluteus maximus on display, I do know that director Drew Mylrea has a particular fascination with it.  It’s not the last time we’ll see it either, as Van Acker (or his butt double) has a fondness for dropping trou and showing his ass-ets that would make Mel Gibson blush.  Anyway, curving back on topic, Van Acker’s Jake is a sheltered young man living off the land deep in the forest (actually Butte, Montana) with his father Troy (Stephen Moyer, Concussion).  Cut off from the outside world to avoid a plague that has wiped out much of the world’s population, Troy protects his son by keeping outsiders away with deadly force.  When Troy is injured and requires supplies they don’t have, Jake sets out to see if one of the abandoned homes nearby has anything they can use. 

His search leads him to Henrietta’s ranch and, understandably, the naïve Jake’s first experience seeing a woman is both a shock and an opportunity.  He wants to know more but remembers the warnings his father (a clear misogynist) has given him not just about the disease that has spread which took his mother but also of the ways women in general act.  Throwing caution to the wind, he risks it and forms a bond with Henrietta (Silverstone, Valley Girl), a woman that has come to this remote location for reasons of her own.  Why she’s there, what really happened to the population, and answers to several other questions are uncovered the longer Jake spends time away from his controlling father.

Writer Josh Janowicz has a nice little film going for much of the time we spend with Last Survivors.  It’s especially kind to Silverstone’s character, giving equal time to exploring Henrietta’s situation and not making it solely about Jake’s coming of age (more of catching up to his own maturity than anything) or the deception Troy has been creating for his son.  The last twenty minutes or so of the movie gets a little too messy and introduces complications which feel out of place when the rest was so level-pitched.  Even with little romantic chemistry between Silverstone and Van Acker, the two have good rapport in their scenes.  It’s all a little too run of the mill to be memorable (even the rump is sort of average!) so while it works in the moment, the memory of Last Survivors doesn’t stick around long after the credits end.

The Silver Bullet ~ Devil’s Knot

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Synopsis: The savage murders of three young children sparks a controversial trial of three teenagers accused of killing the kids as part of a satanic ritual.

Release Date:  TBA 2014

Thoughts: Aside from a Broadway musical, I’m not sure if any visual art hasn’t taken a stab at the crime saga surrounding the West Memphis Three.  After the three landmark Paradise Lost documentaries and one recent feature documentary (West of Memphis) the story has now been adapted into a film starring two Oscar winners under the direction of an Oscar nominated director.  So why doesn’t the first trailer for the big screen treatment of Mara Leveritt’s well-researched investigative novel land better?

For me, it’s because I feel it’s all been done before using the real life players that have been involved in the tragedy.  We’ve seen the faces of the murdered children and the three young boys that were targeted as their killers.  We’ve followed their families, seen the pain of loss, and the gnawing feeling that the real person or persons responsible remain unpunished.  Can good actors like Reese Witherspoon (This Means War, Mud) and Colin Firth (Arthur Newman) get across that same emotion?

Originally positioned as an awards contender, after some early screenings the buzz is considerably lower and who knows how large of a release this will even get.  That’s too bad because this has a fantastic cast…however I think they’re simply stuck in a re-telling of events we’re familiar with.