New movies: 'The Florida Project,' 'Breathe,' 'The Snowman,' 'Killing Gunther,' 'Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House,' 'Too Funny To Fail' headline a jam-packed week of movies, Oct 20
Studios are hoping that as the weather turns, more and more people will flock to theaters...at least that's one explanation for the slew of new movies being released this October. This weekend brings us one of the most buzzed-about award movies of the year, and pretty much something for everyone. A few of this week's releases are even available On Demand, so there's definitely a lot to get to.
So without further ado, here are reviews for all of the new movies seeing release this weekend, October 20th, 2017:
"The Florida Project"
Living up to the hype, "The Florida Project" is one of the year's best films.
It's quite uncommon for a movie to do so much, so well. It's co-writer and director, Sean Baker, has been on the scene for a while now, but he really made a name for himself with his 2015 festival darling, "Tangerine," a film that was beautiful in its own right, but became notable for having been shot entirely on an iPhone. There are no such gimmicks in "The Florida Project," a movie that takes place in the forgotten shadows of the Magic Kingdom right outside of Disney World in Florida, exposing an entire sub-culture of our society that is rarely put into focus. It utilizes a fine ensemble cast of mostly unknowns, with break-through performances from two newcomers, and a turn by Willem Dafoe that marks the actor's best work in ages.
Dafoe is a manager at one of those sleazy motels you'd find if you happen to take a wrong turn off of a Disney World highway. The story is really centered on some of his tenants, particularly a wild little girl named Moonie (Brooklynn Prince) and her single mom, Halley (Bria Vinaite), and their existence in this just-above-the-poverty-line paradise.
There is a specific rawness to Baker's style...he creates movies that don't feel like movies at all. All of these people are characters that usually would be relegated to being side-kicks or background characters in other films. It addresses some serious themes about our culture, the Millennial generation and the future of this country, and there is something eerie and ironic about how such a world exists so close to where many middle-class families come to "wish upon a star." There is simply too much substance to discuss in such a short blurb of a review, so if you take anything at all from these words, take this: Go see this film.
"The Florida Project" ends in a way that feels authentic to the story, but that may divide the audience as to its real meaning and because of its abruptness. But by then, it's only a mere quibble: What comes before these final shots is sobering, powerful and not easily digestible. But what "The Florida Project" manages to give us is nothing short of magical.
Genre: Drama. Run Time: 1 hour 55 minutes.
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, Sandy Kane, Caleb Landry Jones.
Directed by Sean Baker ("Tangerine," "Starlet," "Prince of Broadway").
Not all best-sellers translate well to the big-screen, as is evident in the cold, cluttered mess that is "The Snowman". Michael Fassbender is - try not to giggle - a down-and-out detective by the name of Harry Hole. He is brought in to investigate a string of deaths that seem to be the work of some deranged serial killer, who builds an ominous looking snowman at the scene of every crime.
All faith that this story could go anywhere interesting melts away after a few scenes, where we seem to get more sub-plots and characters than the film can manage. The result is a banal, paint-by-numbers thriller that isn't nearly as interesting as it thinks it might be. You might be happy to know that Val Kilmer appears in this film, albeit in a small role, but in one of the most bizarre moves in recent cinema, his voice (or someone's) is dubbed in, and badly. Kilmer recently had throat surgery and he is a sight for sore eyes to be sure, but, like, wtf?
Sadly for "The Snowman," Kilmer's voice is perhaps the most in-sync thing about it, and that's not a compliment. This is a crime-story served cold, wet and lumpy.
Genre: Crime, Horror, Drama. Run Time: 1 hour 59 minutes.
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, J.K. Simmons, Val Kilmer, Toby Jones.
Directed by Tomas Alfredson ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Let the Right One In").
We've become accustomed to not seeing Andy Serkis on screen...he has built his career as the go-to guy for motion-capture effects, starring in films such as "The Lord of the Rings" Trilogy, "King Kong," and the newer "Planet of the Apes" and "Star Wars" films. We don't get to see him in "Breathe" either, but for a much different reason: Serkis is behind the camera as director, in this, his directorial debut.
What we learn about him is that he must be quite the optimist, or at least, he brings a sugary sentimentality to his work. "Breathe" tells the real life story of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield), a well-to-do Brit who became a pioneer for the disabled. His wife, Diana Cavendish ("The Crown"'s own Claire Foy) was there at his side as he thumbed his nose at doctors who told him he had only three months to live after being diagnosed with polio at age 28. Cavendish went on to live well into his 60s.
"Breathe" is sort of like "The Theory of Everything" but made with a much more loving and tender touch...for the subject matter, this isn't a compliment, because the more the music swells, the more this movie feels like a Made-for-TV special. Like "Theory" though, there are some wonderful performances here, mainly from Andrew Garfield - who barely moves from the neck down the entire film - and from the great Tom Hollander who plays twins Bloggs and David Blacker. Foy, of course, is great too. All of these parts though don't quite add up to the sum and "Breathe" feels a bit laborious at times. In the end, there's just not enough air in the old wind-pipes to recommend it, mainly due to the many manipulative cliches that Serkis suffocates it with.
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance. Run Time: 1 hour 57 minutes.
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Tom Hollander, Amit Shah.
Directed by Andy Serkis (feature-film directorial debut).
"Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House"
It's a movie about as interesting and daring as its title. "Mark Felt" is the story of - you guessed it - Mark Felt (Liam Neeson), who was the FBI informant that basically was responsible for the impeachment of Richard Nixon following Watergate. If the name doesn't ring a bell, that's because you probably know him more commonly as "Deep Throat," which was the alias assigned to him in the media. This is the story of Watergate from his perspective, but it's one that might have been better suited for print.
But that doesn't mean that it isn't worthy of your attention. Neeson is good (as always) and it is an interesting take on one of the biggest political take-downs in American history. It's very talky though, and feels like a missed opportunity...where "All the President's Men" was a classic, riveting film throughout, "Mark Felt" comes off as a bit boring and spiritless. But as seen through eyes inside the FBI, it's a tale that has meaning in today's world, where loyalty to an individual seems to be more important than duty to one's country. Working that theme, "Mark Felt" is worth the watch.
Genre: Biography, Drama, History. Run Time: 1 hour 43 minutes.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Lane, Ike Barinholtz, Marton Csokas, Michael C. Hall, Tom Sizemore.
Written and Directed by Peter Landesman ("Concussion," "Parkland").
SNL vet Taran Killam writes and directs his very first feature-length film in the zany "Killing Gunther", a film that is sadly disappointing and surprisingly unfunny. It might not be fair to compare this film with an SNL skit, but that's what it feels like...it is all "promising premise" but doesn't quite have enough comedy to sustain the length of a feature-film. And rarely, if ever, has a movie been dubbed a "must-see" when given a failing grade, but "Killing Gunther" is a must-see, if only for the outrageously loose and funny performance by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Killam also stars, as a hitman who puts together a team of other hitmen (and hitwomen) to take down Gunther (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is the world's greatest hitman. Gunther catches wind of their plot and decided to hunt them instead, so the movie turns into a serious of bungled attempts on Gunther's life.
Killam is a talented dude, and there was a lot of anticipation for this to be good...2017 has been a very thin year for good comedies. But there are just no real laughs to be had, at least until Gunther shows up (way too late in the film). It also features the very talented and funny Bobby Moynihan, Cobie Smulders and Allison Tolman, but none of them hold a candle to Schwarzenegger's Gunther. His hair and make-up people deserve props as well for making his look as memorable as his performance. Gunther - and Killam - deserve better than this, as does the audience, but "Killing Gunther" isn't a bad movie (no pun intended) to catch On Demand this weekend.
Genre: Action, Comedy. Run Time: 1 hour 32 minutes.
Starring: Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Colbie Smulders, Allison Tolman.
Written and Directed by Taran Killam (feature-film directorial debut)..
"Too Funny To Fail"
Lastly this week, make sure you seek out a new documentary on Hulu called "Too Funny to Fail." It tells the rise-and-fall story of "The Dana Carvey Show," which somehow was a major bust when it debuted on ABC back in 1996. It was by all accounts ahead of its time, and looking back at it today it seems almost impossible that the show wasn't successful, especially if you consider it not only had the red-hot (at the time) Dana Carvey, but it also featured a then-unknown Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Louie CK and Robert Smigel...all legends of comedy in their own right who went on to tremendous success...all except Carvey, really.
The documentary acts not only as a recounting of the show, but it has very interesting back-stories on how Carell and Colbert became famous. "Too Funny to Fail" is a great diversion and behind-the-scenes story, and it will make you want to go watch (or re-visit) "The Dana Carvey Show," which lasted all of eight episodes...coincidentally you can check out the entire series as well as this documentary on Hulu today.
All of these movies open locally on Friday, October 20, 2017. Check here for show times.
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