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    • Entertainer
      Entertainer published a blog post Geostorm

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      There has been some question as to whether now is the proper time to release a film like “Geostorm” and not just because it arrives in theaters bearing all the hallmarks of a cinematic disaster in the making: numerous release date changes, reports of extensive reshoots that eliminated some characters entirely while introducing new ones, and the presence of Gerard Butler in the lead role. No, the question is whether the general public will be in a mood to see a movie in which the entire planet is threatened with attacks of extreme weather in the wake of all the meteorological chaos of the last few weeks. As it turns out, people who were leery of going to see it for that reason can rest easy because, despite the ad campaign to the contrary, the film is actually an utterly idiotic and oftentimes boring amalgamation of “The Day After Tomorrow,” “San Andreas,” “Gravity,” “The Manchurian Candidate” and the lesser Irwin Allen productions. “Geostorm” fails to work either as awe-inspiring spectacle or as campy silliness.

      As the film opens, we learn that Earth was hit with a series of catastrophic extreme weather events in 2019 that wiped out entire cities. Finally recognizing the dangers of global warming (which proves that the film is a fantasy), the U.S. joins the other countries of the world to combat it by taking point in the creation of a massive satellite system, nicknamed “Dutch Boy” because why not, that tracks extreme weather systems and eliminates them before the destruction can begin. Dutch Boy is the brainchild of two-fisted, hard-drinking and inexplicably Scottish American scientist Jake Lawson (Butler) who runs the system along with an international crew up in space. However, he is one of those guys who just cares too much and when a Senate hearing goes sideways, he is fired from the project by its new head, his own brother, Max (a burr-free Jim Sturgess). 

      Three years later, the U.S. is about to cede its authority over Dutch Boy to all the countries of the world when a mishap occurs involving a malfunctioning satellite and an entire village in the theoretically sweltering Afghanistan desert is flash frozen as a result. Not wanting to turn over a flawed system, the President of the United States (Andy Garcia) opts to have Max send someone up to find out what happened and fix it and (spoiler alert) Jake ends up going up to do it. After about six minutes, Jake and the station commander (Alexandra Maria Lara) figure out that system has been sabotaged, a conclusion that Max also comes to down on Earth. While other cities are hit with insane weather—Tokyo gets hail the size of canned Okja while a bikini babe in Rio is seen trying to outrun the cold—the two brothers try to get to the bottom of what appears to be a massive conspiracy and stop it before the satellites can create a “geostorm,” an ever-expanding mass of cataclysmic weather that could kill untold millions throughout the world.

      You know how when a big-ticket genre film comes out and within a couple of weeks, there will already be a knockoff of it featuring cut-rate special effects, an utterly insane storyline and B-level actors (if we are lucky) traipsing through the silliness in exchange for a quick paycheck? “Geostorm” feels like the first $120 million (according to the studio) version of such a film—the effects may be somewhat better than the stuff you see on the Syfy network but even the producers over there might have blanched at the nonsense offered. To mention all of the major problems here would run the risk of turning this review into a mere list, so I will only highlight a couple of them. For starters, our hero is a loud, obnoxious jerk that few people would want to spend any amount of time with and I fear that Butler embodies that characteristic to a T—you spend the first half of the movie hoping that the film is going to pull an “Executive Decision” and knock him out early so that the real and actually likable hero can come in and save the day. And the conspiracy angle doesn’t work because A.) the elaborate plot doesn’t make any sense even by dumb action film standards and B.) the bad guy is so patently obvious that most people will be able to figure it out just by looking at the credits on the poster. And, oh yeah, there are any number of extraneous subplots—Jake’s relationship with his disappointed moppet of a daughter and Max’s supposedly clandestine affair with a Secret Service agent (Abbie Cornish, who actually can act and whose presence here is all the more disappointing as a result)—that not only do nothing but eat up screen time but linger over the meal at length to boot.

      It all sounds absolutely ridiculous but the real disappointment about “Geostorm” is that it doesn’t even work as the camp suggested by the trailer. Yes, there are scenes of weather-related destruction but there are only a couple of points—a sudden temperature spike in Hong Kong causing gas main explosions that level much of the city and wild lighting strikes over Orlando—where we get to see them play out at length. The rest are often reduced to brief bits that offer just enough footage to make the trailer seem a little more spectacular but not enough to help the movie. In either case, they lack the lavish visual pyrotechnics nor the wit or style to make any of the destruction slightly memorable. This is all stuff that you have seen better before—even the aforementioned bit of someone trying to outrun the cold comes directly from “The Day After Tomorrow,” a film that I am fairly certain that director/co-writer Dean Devlin is familiar with since it was directed by Roland Emmerich, the guy he collaborated with on “Stargate,” “Godzilla” and the “Independence Day” films.

      God knows how many millions of dollars and hours of manpower went into making and remaking “Geostorm” but it turns out to have been all for naught. You would think that with a premise so goofy and with so much money thrown at it, a movie like this would at least be somewhat memorable, but "Geostorm" is so completely forgettable that it will begin to slip from your memory before you get to the parking lot and will have completely faded away by the time you get home. I never dreamed that the day would come when I would say these words, but “Geostorm” is a film that really could have used a Sharknado or two to liven things up.

      By: Peter Sobczynski
      Posted: October 20, 2017, 9:18 pm

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      • Entertainer
        Entertainer published a blog post Jungle

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        In 1981, Yossi Ghinsberg, all of 21 years old, traveled to South America with dreams of adventure. He ended up in La Paz, Bolivia where he befriended Marcus Stamm, a Swiss teacher, and Kevin Gale, an American photographer. Together, they set out on an expedition into the uncharted Amazon led by the mysterious Karl Ruprechter, an Austrian man who claimed to have knowledge of hidden gold. After traveling for several days with low supplies and frayed nerves, the four men separated—Karl and Marcus would walk while Yossi and Kevin set out on the river in a raft. But as the raft neared a waterfall, Yossi and Kevin lost control and got separated from each other. Yossi spent three weeks stranded in the jungle with no supplies and little food before being rescued by a search mission just before they were about to abandon hope.

        Yossi’s remarkable tale of bravery and fortitude feels ready made for a film adaptation, one that delves into the psychological horrors he faced alone in the jungle, uncertain if he’d ever make it out alive. Director Greg McLean (best known for his debut horror film “Wolf Creek”) delivers on this promise with the gritty, yet ultimately overwrought “Jungle.” Starring the always-game Daniel Radcliffe as Yossi, “Jungle” succeeds in communicating the young Israeli kid’s horrible situation, as well as the camaraderie between him and his new friends, but falls short when trying to visually explicate his mental state.

        For most of the film, McLean coasts on the real-life details of Yossi’s story to great effect. He and Radcliffe wonderfully capture Yossi’s open, yet reckless mindset as he lands in La Paz and meets Marcus (played by Joel Jackson) and Kevin (Alex Russell, who conveys just the right amount of American arrogance). McLean strikes the right tone during Yossi and the crew’s first few days out in the jungle, hovering somewhere between dangerous and exciting. He’s also perceptive about how the unstable environment creates a hierarchy amongst those who dare enter it—Yossi and Kevin adapt right away, but Marcus immediately feels out of place and his blistered, cut-open feet are unable to keep up with his buddies. Marcus begins to lose it while Yossi and Kevin resent him for dragging them down.

        Ironically, “Jungle” starts to lose its way when Yossi loses his. As soon as McLean has only Radcliffe and the jungle as his two main characters, he starts over-relying on cheap effects and hoary psychological clichés to express Yossi’s fraught state of mind. Yossi certainly suffered from hallucinations and near-fatal exhaustion during his harrowing journey, but “Jungle” illustrates this with faux-delirious imagery and wholly unnecessary flashbacks that exist only to break up the monotony of the action. There seems to be great trepidation on McLean’s part to simply allow Radcliffe to communicate the character’s own internalized emotions. Instead, he employs visual gimmickry as cheap support.

        It’s a shame because Radcliffe carries “Jungle” on his shoulders, when McLean or Justin Monjo’s script lets him. He admirably throws himself into this role and plays Yossi as a kid who got into an adventure that was way over his head. He excels at channeling Yossi’s frustration with his own rudimentary exploration skills, like when he realizes he’s spent the day walking in a circle or when he can’t get the rescue plane overhead to see his location. He stumbles occasionally when he has to monologue his own fears (his shaky Israeli accent is mostly to blame), but it’s primarily a physical role, and luckily he’s up to the task. There’s still great charge in watching the former Harry Potter as an emaciated wreck, crawling through the brush whilst screaming for help.

        Despite its many obvious flaws—shaky dialogue, unsubtle sound design, a strong tendency to visually explicate simple ideas—Yossi’s story has enough weight on its own to render “Jungle” a moderately compelling survival flick. The film is on solid ground when it relies solely on the unique dangers of the Amazon, like in the film’s best scene when Yossi finds a parasite lodged in his forehead and must use tweezers to extract it. Moreover, Yossi’s straightforward plight makes him a strong protagonist and keeps the audience invested in his struggle to stay alive. Sometimes a compelling reality is all you need to make a good fiction.

        By: Vikram Murthi
        Posted: October 20, 2017, 1:03 pm

        • Entertainer
          Entertainer published a blog post Jane

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          Biographical documentaries of famous people are typically dull affairs, the kind of thing that falls into hagiography or the kind of talking-head, then-this-happened adoration more at home in the 60-minute television format on PBS than in a feature film. There are very few filmmakers who have defied this trend as completely as Brett Morgen, the director of “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” and “The Kid Stays in the Picture” (about Robert Evans). He makes films that feel like extensions of his subject matters, channeling their creative spirit in the form of his filmmaking more than just detailing what happened in their lives. So it’s cinematic justice that over a hundred hours of footage of Jane Goodall crossed paths with Brett Morgen, as both are pioneers in their field, and only Morgen seems capable of shaping that footage in such a unique, captivating, inspiring way as in “Jane,” one of the best documentaries of the year so far.

          “Jane” is that rare documentary that works in equal measure for those who know a great deal about Jane Goodall and those people who don’t know a thing. Most people probably think they know all they need to know about Jane Goodall. She watched chimps, right? Her research was essential to understanding not only the way we interact with the natural world but our place in it, but hers is not a name like Kurt Cobain that gets thrown around in conversations much in 2017. “Jane” fully elevates the scientific pedestal on which Jane Goodall should be placed but it does so in part by humanizing her, revealing the challenges she faced and discoveries she made as more than mere National Geographic footage you might see in a Science class.

          Morgen structures his film relatively chronologically, allowing Goodall to tell her own story as we see footage of her in the wild. There’s a fascinating structural element of “Jane” in that the footage doesn’t contain interviews or dialogue, and so we’re watching Jane, the chimps, and the other humans who would come to Gambe, in a way that’s not dissimilar from the way Goodall observed her subjects. And there’s the added sense of disconnected observation that comes with time, and in the manner that Goodall herself is analyzing her own story in the way that someone might analyze the actions of a family of chimps. The parallel is clearly intentional, especially as “Jane” becomes more and more about how the lessons that Goodall learned in the wild informed her entire life, including even teaching her lessons about motherhood.

          That’s a theme of “Jane” as we’re introduced to Goodall’s supportive mother in the opening scenes, see how Jane observes the motherhood of the chimps she’s studying, and then see her maternal instincts on display with her own child. Morgen very subtly does this in his films—drawing thematic undercurrents that move through the work without overriding the informative chronology of it all. There’s a fluidity that can be breathtaking to watch, especially as that motion is accompanied by Philip Glass’ best film score in years. You should be warned that it’s “very Glass,” and I found it somewhat overwhelming at first, but I quickly couldn’t imagine the film working without it. It becomes an essential part of the film because of the aforementioned lack of an abundance of archival interviews, meaning that Goodall’s modern voice and Glass’ compositions become our primary sources for information and inspiration.

          “Jane” is filled with fascinating anecdotes and insights, such as the fact that Goodall was never nervous about going to the wild to observe chimps because we didn’t really know about the aggression of the species when she chose to do so. She didn’t know to be scared (but would learn about the violence inherent in the chimp population). Goodall made headlines around the world when she filmed a chimp using a branch to obtain termites from a hole for nourishment. It may not seem like a big deal now, but it was once thought that humans were the only species to use tools, and the fact that a chimp used a branch as a tool shook the world, especially in the offices of religious leaders. The footage around the first time that Goodall really made contact with the chimps—when they trusted her enough to get close—is still breathtaking. It’s incredible to consider that footage this old of a chimp taking a banana from a woman for the first time ever would make for one of the most unforgettable scenes of 2017. A baby chimp learning how to walk is on that list of 2017 images I won’t forget as well.

          Goodall herself is a forthcoming and fascinating interview subject—another testament to Morgen’s work as a narrator. “Jane” feels like a film that couldn’t have been made without the valuable insight gained through time. We see so many documentaries that want to be current and timely that they don’t realize the value of chronological distance from a subject. In a sense, we’re watching the impact of Goodall’s evolution from a young adventurer to a groundbreaking scientist to a wife and mother. And it’s through her self-analysis of that evolution that Morgen draws a line through fifty years of research and an entirely different species. As he has in his other films, he’s saying to us that it is through these pioneers that we can see the best in ourselves and the potential of the human intellect and desire to learn. But he never loses his filmmaker’s desire to entertain at the same time. It’s that balance of both—the genius of both the subject and the filmmaker—that make “Jane” such a rewarding experience.

          By: Brian Tallerico
          Posted: October 20, 2017, 1:04 pm

          • Entertainer
            Entertainer published a blog post BPM (Beats Per Minute)

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            In 1959, the writer and philosopher Guy Debord, best known for his work on what he called “the society of the spectacle,” made a short film called “On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time.” A simple title, but one with a lot of implications. It could serve as an alternate title for the French film “BPM (Beats Per Minute)." Known as “battements par minute” in French, the phrase that initially referred to the human heart was then applied to modern dance music.

            The way this movie relates to the Debord title is in the fictionalized story it tells, about the Paris branch of the AIDS activism group ACT UP in the 1990s. Directed by Robin Campillo from a script by Campillo and Philippe Mangeot, the movie opens with a few members of the group storming the stage during a government presentation on their handling of the AIDS crisis. Their shock tactics get a little out of hand, and the movie cuts to a meeting of the group after the fact, comparing notes, admitting fault, expressing humorous confusion at the contradictions between individual accounts, and discussing what to do next. The movie makes canny use of non-linear editing, moving backwards and forwards with engaging fluidity, and it keeps this up throughout. But the movie, in its 140-minute or so running time, sets itself down purposefully enough to give the audience a good look at several characters sharing a “unity of time” in different ways.

            There’s Thibault (Antoine Reinartz), the pragmatic head of the group, who’s always looking to achieve a balance between the eye-opening protests of the group and a kind of constructive engagement with the government officials and big pharma reps who are slow to respond to the crisis. Sophie (Adèle Haenel) is one of the relatively few women in the group, an eloquent and energetic front-of-the-line type. The group’s makeup is mostly of gay men, but it’s hardly exclusive. The teen Max (Felix Maritaud) got the HIV virus by transfusion, and both he and his single mom Hélène (Catherine Vinatier) are passionate factors in the group. Max mixes up, in his apartment bathtub, the fake blood that the group uses to decorate the office of one pharma company at which it stages an intervention.

            None of these characters come across as a “type” during the scenes in which we get to know them. The actors delineate them as strong individuals. The film’s sharpest focus is often trained on Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), a pint-sized provocateur whose passion is matched by fierce logic and charismatic eloquence. He forms what seems an unlikely romance with Nathan (Arnaud Valois), a hunky, quiet newbie whose negative HIV status arouses initial suspicion when he joins the group. Their love story is frank, sometimes funny, and eventually heart-rending. 

            What the movie does, beautifully, and unfortunately, necessarily, is remind the viewer that the axiom “the political is personal” is not a fluffball bromide to be set aside in the postmodern world. “BPM” recounts with precision an era in which people died in part because governments tacitly (and sometimes not tacitly) agreed worldwide that a particular virus was punishment for deviant behavior and thus not something that deserved urgent attention. The tactics of ACT UP were deemed “extremist” by many. This movie demonstrates the humanity of these activists, people whose backs were against a wall. It does so with humor, compassion, affinity, and no condescension. Even if you consider yourself reasonably well-versed in the history, “BPM” is a kind of wake-up call, a cinematic alarm against complacency.

            By: Glenn Kenny
            Posted: October 20, 2017, 1:04 pm

            • Entertainer
              Entertainer published a blog post Wonderstruck

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              Despite what the title suggests, “Wonderstruck” represents a rare disappointment from master filmmaker Todd Haynes.

              It’s gorgeous, of course, with all the sumptuous lensing, rich sense of place and meticulous eye for period detail we’ve come to expect and luxuriate in from the director of “Far From Heaven” and “Carol.” And it’s certainly ambitious from a narrative perspective as it jumps back and forth between two mysteriously connected stories—one of which is entirely wordless.

              But the emotional payoff just isn’t there, despite a lengthy build-up of cosmic proportions, which ultimately renders the entire effort a twee exercise in style over substance. It’s Haynes’ most accessible work for a broad audience, though—and it’s definitely the only film he’s made that younger viewers can see—so maybe it’ll inspire folks unfamiliar with him to seek out his more challenging fare.

              Based on the novel of the same name by author and illustrator Brian Selznick, whose The Invention of Hugo Cabret inspired Martin Scorsese’s fanciful “Hugo,” “Wonderstruck” follows the adventures of two kids who run away to New York City, 50 years apart, seeking answers and a sense of peace. Both are lonely and isolated; both are plucky despite their troubled homes. They also both happen to be hearing impaired. But they manage to find allies and figure out a way to survive through their resourcefulness and—as Selznick’s script not so subtly suggests—a healthy heaping of magic.

              Ben (Oakes Fegley, star of last year’s “Pete’s Dragon”) isn’t deaf at the film’s start. Living with relatives in rural Gunflint, Minnesota, in 1977, Ben dreams of the mother (Michelle Williams) who recently died in a car crash and the father whose identity he’s never known. While going through her belongings looking for clues, he finds a book about curiosity cabinets from a secondhand store in New York. Inside is a bookmark inscribed with a sentimental note for his mom. (Who hasn’t found one of those?) But as he’s gathering his things to hop on a bus and search for this stranger, a freak lighting strike leaves him unable to hear, although he can still speak.

              “Wonderstruck” alternates between Ben’s story and that of a sweet, shy girl named Rose living in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1927. She’s been deaf since birth (as is the expressive newcomer playing her, Millicent Simmonds). But she longs to connect with actress Lillian Mayhew (Haynes regular Julianne Moore), a film star at the tail end of the silent era, with whom she’s obsessed. Rose dares to leave the comfort of her pampered home life to board a ferry for the big city across the Hudson River.

              But Rose at least knows someone in Manhattan: her older brother, Walter (Cory Michael Smith), who works at the American Museum of Natural History. Ben, you will not be the least shocked to learn, ends up at the same museum 50 years later—climbing the same stairs, perusing the same exhibits and hiding from the same kind of security guards who suspect both kids are up to no good.

              In each case, the immersive visuals are far more compelling than the kids’ overly simplistic stories. Working once again with cinematographer Ed Lachman, costume designer Sandy Powell (who’s also an executive producer on the film) and production designer Mark Friedberg—all masters—Haynes recreates two extremely different visions of New York hustle-and-bustle in astonishing, vivid detail. Each section plays like a film that might have come out during their respective eras. The 1927 story is told in grainy black and white without dialogue as a reflection of Rose’s reality; the boldly percussive score from frequent Coen brothers composer Carter Burwell punctuates particular moments in dramatic, unsettling ways.

              Meanwhile, 1977 is full of faded oranges and greens and teems with danger and squalor. When Ben steps off the bus and enters the Port Authority terminal—alone, in the middle of the night, carrying everything that matters to him in a backpack—you can feel the grit and grime emanating from the screen. The trash scattered everywhere is so prevalent and tactile, it’s practically a supporting character. But the friendship Ben strikes up with a similarly lonely kid named Jamie (Jaden Michael) provides a warm and welcome contrast.

              Pity, then, that the movie’s many sweet individual moments and the increasingly tiresome back-and-forth structure don’t add up to much. A climactic scene that takes place at the Queens Museum’s Panorama of the City of New York—a massive, painstakingly crafted model of the metropolis in miniature—provides a breathtaking sight. But by the time we arrive there (and it takes a loooong time to arrive there), the secrets in store are essentially a foregone conclusion.

              Haynes is still using his formidable abilities to explore the universal need for human connection, though— which is a wonderful thing, even in less powerful form.

              By: Christy Lemire
              Posted: October 20, 2017, 1:04 pm

              • Entertainer

                Thumb boo 2 2017

                Last time on “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” Madea (Tyler Perry) and her elderly cohorts Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), Hattie (Patrice Lovely) and Joe (Tyler Perry) matched wits with a bunch of trifling frat boys and the disrespectful high school senior girls who were trying to crash the frat’s Halloween party. The trailer promised comic scares but the movie provided none; it tipped its hand early to let us know that all of the supernatural happenings were pranks on Madea’s crew. Madea got her revenge by trapping the frat boys in a prison bus with big, burly prisoners just itching to sexually assault them. There was some moralizing in there somewhere, too, which is par for the course here in Tyler Perry land.

                Your humble reviewer covered the prior film, and my biggest problem with it was that I had sincerely hoped to see Madea match wits with the actual monsters and killers from horror movies. After all, broad comedy and horror can yield entertaining features like “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” If Madea were here right now, she’d scold me and tell me I should be “careful what I wish fuhrrr.” Because her creator has now blessed us with “Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween,” which adds more blatant horror elements into the mix. This time, it’s possible that the guy chasing Joe with a chainsaw might actually want to butcher him.

                But I’m getting ahead of myself here. The first thing I should address is that damn title. “Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween” is not only unwieldy, it’s such a missed opportunity. I know Mr. Perry has seen “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” the film that contains the greatest subtitle every slapped on a movie. Had he named this film “Boo 2: Electric Boogaloo,” I would have given it four stars sight unseen. But Perry’s problems with sequel titles goes back to “Why Did I Get Married, Too?” You may think that kvetching about a title is a petty affair, but it can be the difference between box office success and failure. Just ask “The Hudsucker Proxy.”

                Of course, Madea doesn’t have to worry about bad box office. She has a built-in audience of the faithful (and faith-filled) who will pack the seats on opening weekend. They will sit through all 104 minutes of “Boo 2!” not once demanding that Perry present them with something new or innovative. And that’s the problem. This is Madea’s tenth appearance in films, and no matter what the topic, she exists in a cinematic universe filled with numerous scenes of her just sitting there arguing with her people in a room. Granted, those scenes can be amusing, but you’d expect some visual potency by now from a man who has 45 directorial credits on imDB. Don’t get me wrong: Nobody is expecting Citizen Kane here. But would it hurt to make the film look presentable?

                But I digress. You’re going to Madea’s house to laugh, forget your troubles and perhaps get a good Christian message. To Perry’s credit, he does a far better job of folding that message into the film than usual. Before we get there, however, we must contend once again with Madea’s niece, Tiffany (Diamond White), who, as in “Boo 1,” wants to attend a Halloween frat party. This time, she gets permission from her mother, Debrah (Taja V. Simpson). Tiffany is 18 and should be trusted more than her father Brian (Tyler Perry) allows. Tiffany walks all over Brian, and he’s such a wimp that it’s solely by the grace of God that Tiffany isn’t in Juvie Hall for murder. Brian is so out-of-touch that he has a petting zoo at Tiffany’s 18th birthday party.

                Events in the first film caused a moratorium on frat house parties, so the frat decides to have their shindig at Camp Crystal Lake, or whatever Perry calls his haunted vista. Like in “Friday the 13th,” sex-obsessed camp counselors were butchered at this camp, leading to rumors that it not only may be haunted, but that one of the serial killers may still reside up there. It’s the perfect spot for a scary party, n’est-ce pas? Tiffany can’t wait to get up there to fool around with frat brothers who look old enough to be her father. One of the bros is supposed to be 20 but has a thick, full beard I can’t grow at 47.

                When Madea gets wind that Tiffany is using Debrah to defy Brian’s order to skip the party, she and her crew spring into action. Unfortunately for Madea—and for the partygoers—something spooky awaits them. As soon as they get to the camp, they encounter a batch of ghouls with murder in mind. There’s a guy with a gas mask and a chainsaw, another guy with an ax and that hairy little girl from “The Ring.” Unlike last time, the killers are definitely not fraternity pranksters. They appear to have supernatural powers and the victims who can’t outrun them leave behind bloodstains.

                I liked how Perry took some inspiration for the murderers’ attire from 80’s slasher films like “The Prowler.” I also liked that the final reveal of the killers’ identities made as little sense as it did in the slashers. “Boo 2!” could have benefited from better scenes of stalk-and-escape, but we are treated to several mildly amusing moments of Madea and crew reacting with fright at whatever befalls them. Since we don’t know how on the level these terrors are, “Boo 2!” comes off as more of Halloween-worthy than its predecessor. And yet, when Madea finally decides to “kick some ass,” the movie deprives us of just how wonderful that might have been.

                Perry’s best scene as Madea is the funniest one in all of his films. While at a police station to report the creepy goings-on, Madea notices that she has a wanted poster on the wall. It looks like the one from “Madea Goes to Jail.” Madea tries to act inconspicuous so as not to draw attention, but she can’t help but be giddy about her reputation. She giggles like a schoolgirl over the youthful picture they used, and when Hattie points out that Madea is wanted for check fraud, Madea draws her attention to the litany of other crimes she’s wanted for on the poster. I laughed out loud before I realized this scene is the Tyler Perry universe in microcosm. These movies make a lot of money and are cheap and easy to make. Like Madea, Perry’s getting away with attempted murder. I can’t knock his hustle. I just pray I’m not living in a fool’s paradise hoping he’ll make some kind of masterpiece to show us critics how wrong we’ve been.

                By: Odie Henderson
                Posted: October 20, 2017, 1:09 pm

                • Entertainer
                  Entertainer published a blog post One of Us

                  Thumb one of us 2017

                  The title "One of Us" cuts deeply, in two directions. This documentary by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady zeroes in on three individuals who were once part of a tightly knit community of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, New York. All three eventually left the tribe, as it were, because they found its conditions for membership suffocating, even abusive. 

                  All three are caught by the filmmakers in the process of transforming themselves into secular Americans living life in the mainstream, enjoying the freedom that comes from being about to make bold personal choices, but also feeling abandoned and hated by the family and friends who remained on the other side. They're becoming part of a larger world now—one of "them" as opposed to one of "us," or maybe the other way around. 

                  Teenaged Ari endured a horrendous crime as a child that was covered up by his community; it eventually contributed to his cocaine addiction (he's survived two overdoses). Luzer is a twenty something man who realized one day that he couldn't stand to live under the constraints of the community, got a divorce, left his family New York and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. Etty, now 32, has the most disturbing story. She was pushed into marriage with an abusive man at 19 and has had seven children. The entire extended family plus a wider circle of friends have joined forces to stop her from divorcing her husband and starting over. 

                  This is complex and often explosive subject matter, and in examining it, the excellent team of Ewing and Grady (“The Boys of Baraka,” “Jesus Camp” and “Detropia") tread as carefully as they can, given the constraints they're under. Specifically, they can only tell one side of this story: the Hasidim, who rail against the secular world and are suspicious of cell phones and the Internet, aren't about to sit for interviews with these filmmakers. That means that we're never going to hear their side of things. 

                  This is not to say that whatever we might might have heard would have created an "one the one hand, on the other hand" dynamic—clearly, all three of the filmmakers' subjects had excellent reasons for leaving the community, and even if their reasons had been flighty or specious, they should still have had the right to determine their own destiny without fear of being ostracized or punished. That said, the most fascinating, albeit quite brief, portion of the movie comes in the form of a history lesson: we find out that the Hasidic Jewish community sprung up as a response to the Holocaust—that they see themselves as holy replacements for the millions who were slaughtered in the 1930s and '40s. Everyone, including abusers, have reasons for doing what they do; a bit more on this subject might've made an already wrenching documentary even more powerful. 

                  Then again, "One of Us" is so strong as-is that its more harrowing sections—particularly Ari's account of his childhood suffering and the details of Rachel's fight for freedom—are so already hard to watch that you might want to turn away. There's nothing more exhilarating or more terrifying than taking control of one's own life. 

                  By: Matt Zoller Seitz
                  Posted: October 20, 2017, 3:00 pm

                  • Entertainer

                    Thumb same kind of different 2017

                    “Same Different Kind of Me” is a top nominee for the Nice Movie of 2017, in that it just wants to exist and be kind when not trying to extract tears from its audience like test subjects. Spiritually, it feels relatively tame compared to other religious movies, as it doesn’t proclaim that “Heaven is For Real” or “God’s Not Dead,” but it does use the Bible as a moral compass on its bland journey of selflessness. Its biggest risk is that it might alienate members of the KKK, but in this climate the film’s producers might think that’s ballsy enough. 

                    Based on the bestselling book, which inspired both a sequel and a children’s adaptation, “Same Kind of Different as Me” is the true story of a wealthy Texas white couple, Ron and Debbie (Greg Kinnear and Renee Zellweger), who befriend a violent homeless man (Djimon Hounsou). He calls himself Suicide, but is actually named Denver. Debut co-writer/director Michael Carney doesn’t have much of an eye for any of this saga, which includes a “Blind Side”-like narrative that transitions into a weepy sickness tale fit for Nicholas Sparks that I won’t spoil, but the true story aspect is a type of preservation itself. It can be hard to disagree with the heart and events of this true tale, except for when the movie reveals itself to be mighty self-congratulatory. 

                    The book, which features the “voices” of Ron and Denver as organized by their co-author Lynn Vincent, makes a point of starting with Denver’s narration before then going to Ron, as Denver shares a horrifying racist episode from his youth that’s featured in the middle of the film. But instead of feeling like the story belongs to both men, this movie is told from Ron’s perspective, framed as the tale of a Texas art dealer who know a great woman who helped introduce him to a sidekick. Ron is brought into the world of taking care of homeless people as a type of penance after Debbie catches him cheating; she takes him to a shelter in a less-loved part of Fort Worth, which leads to a lot of plainly “nice” scenes in which Debbie and/or Ron interact with homeless people, treat them like human beings. One night, Debbie dreams of walking through a field and seeing a black man, the type of straight-faced narrative detail that proves to be a big deal in a movie like this. 

                    That mental image soon barrels into the movie in the form of Suicide, literally with a baseball bat in hand as he tears up the homeless shelter's cafeteria. Scene-by-scene, as Ron & Debbie reach out to him by acknowledging him and feeding him, the intense man loses the thick exteriors and offers perfect wisdom after perfect wisdom. He is later welcomed into their home, and their social lives. We learn, through monologues accompanied by flashback, about Denver's truly unbelievable past: that he lived in Louisiana and picked cotton in what was essentially slavery, completely removed from the civil rights movement or any such modernity; that he was beaten by KKK members as a teenager, and later went to prison for trying to rob a bus in Shreveport. Hounsou's scraggly voice shares these stories through extensive monologues as Kinnear and Zellweger listen, with Hounsou doling out precise line-reading and tears. True to the hollow cinematic spirit of this movie, Carney can only accompany with bland flashbacks or stubborn modern-day close-ups that soak us in Hounsou’s wet eyes. 

                    The film gives a strong juxtaposition of why Ron & Debbie and Denver would be unusual as friends, which makes for a sweet spot in the middle when Denver is shown hanging out with them. The scenes are cringeworthy to be sure, like when one of Ron’s peers at a country club calls Denver an “amigo Negro,” but the shimmer, that value of “nice” is prominent, as performed by three capable actors. In fact, in many instances, Kinnear, Zellweger and Hounsou make the production seem like it has more soul than the sappy strings, wholesale dialogue and lazy filmmaking would suggest. 

                    It should be said that Hounsou gives what is hands down one of the most intense performances that these modern religious blockbusters will ever see. Actors of all religious ideology levels, from shoulder-shrug to Uber Kirk Cameron, find their way into these moral melodramas as mere projects, with inconsistent spiritual or artistic inspiration. Just look at Jon Voight in this film, who phones in a curmudgeonly drunk performance that makes for a weak subplot about being forgiven by his son, Ron. But Hounsou recognizes something volcanic in this character—a profound soul who has survived many lifetimes, alone; Hounsou believes something about this story that others do not. In turn, he provides a performance with an intensity this project doesn’t deserve and in turn doesn't know what to do with. 

                    As the story ambles along, focused most of all on heart strings, Denver’s shallow purpose to the film is revealed. His narrative duties are limited to telling a sad story from his past, crying, and making his new friends feel all that more assured about what they have done. Whenever Denver offers wisdom, including a perfect speech at the end where this movie gets its title, and then takes a spot to the side, his handling gets all the more tedious. While there is a fascinating story within here of an unlikely connection between a married couple and Denver, “Same Kind of Different as Me” would rather make it specifically and obnoxiously about the selfless, magical white people and the human being who benefited from their kindness. It’s worse enough that the story dulls down the spirit of Ron and Debbie; it’s even more gross how high the story tries to prop up Denver.

                    By: Nick Allen
                    Posted: October 20, 2017, 5:09 pm

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                      What's new in the new UNLOQ WordPress two factor authentication plugin? New features: 60-second setup, easy customization, role-based authentication etc.

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                          • Entertainer
                            Entertainer published a blog post Only the Brave

                            Thumb only the brave 2017

                            “Only the Brave” is the latest in a string of reality-based disaster films in which horrible tragedies are brought back to life via special effects and offered up for the delectation of the multiplex crowds—a sub-genre that has become so prevalent as of late that Mark Wahlberg has pretty much made a personal cottage industry out of them. This is a type of filmmaking I have always felt a certain level of ambivalence towards because good intentions can’t hide their tendency to feel hollow and exploitative in nature. “Only the Brave,” which chronicles an Arizona firefighting crew known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots from their early days struggling to get certified to their tragic encounter with the Yarnell Hill fire, has been made with a combination of sincerity and technical skill that is effective on a fundamental level, even if it never quite becomes the devastating emotional experience that it clearly wants to be.

                            “Hotshots,” the film explains upfront, are an elite group of forest firefighters who are specially trained and certified to go into on-fire areas and establish a controlled fire line that the approaching inferno cannot cross. As the story begins, a team from the small town of Prescott, Arizona, under the leadership of chief Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) is trying to get certified, a feat that would make them the country’s first municipal hotshot squad. For now, they are merely part of the second wave that has to look on while the hotshots get to do all the real work, even if they have a better idea of the terrain and how the fire might turn in an instant than the top dogs. Eventually, local wildland division chief Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges) gets them in position to finally get an official evaluation. As the group begins to train for this, they take on a new recruit in Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), a local screw-up who decides to finally get off drugs and become responsible after learning that his ex-girlfriend is pregnant. To take Brendan on at this time seems like an enormous mistake, as fellow firefighter Christopher McKenzie (Taylor Kitsch) is constantly reminding him, but Marsh sees something in McDonough that inspires him to take that risk.

                            Ironically, it is Marsh who almost blows it for the group during their evaluation when he elects to utilize a risky maneuver to combat a fire. Nevertheless, the group is officially certified at last and the newly dubbed Granite Mountain Hotshots quickly establish themselves in a series of fires, even becoming local heroes when they help save a cherished tree from a nearby blaze. However, the dangers of the job, not to mention the extended periods of time they are away from their families, do begin to take a toll. For McDonough, who has fully pulled himself together in order to establish a relationship with his baby daughter, he fears that the absences will turn him into the never-there father that he had and vowed that he would never become. As for Marsh, the new job pressures cause additional stress between him and his wife, Amanda (Jennifer Connelly), who knew what she was getting into when she first married him but is no longer thrilled with him devoting so much of his life to his job and so little to her.

                            Although one might think that the Yarnell Hill blaze and its aftermath might dominate the proceedings, “Only the Brave” spends the majority of its time showing how the crew grows and develops, both professionally and personally, with special emphasis on the lives of Marsh and McDonough. This is not necessarily a bad approach to take but it does lead to some clunkiness in the early going due to a screenplay by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer that has to deal with a mass of exposition involving the details of what a hotshot crew actually does and the group’s internal politics. One of the reasons that a film like “Black Hawk Down,” on which Nolan served as screenwriter, works so well is that it was able to establish all of its myriad elements in a clean and effective manner. Here, the script does a good job of letting us know what the hotshots do and the danger and importance of their actions but the other stuff doesn’t quite come off. The various conflicts involving the struggles to get certified are never clearly established and when they do finally accomplish that goal, it doesn’t really have much of an impact. Another problem is that while the screenplay takes time to fully establish the lives of Marsh and McDonough, the other members of the crew are largely given short shrift with many of them only getting to deliver an incidental line or two and fill up the numerous shots of the crew sitting on hills and mountain ledges in casually heroic poses.

                            Once the crew is certified, however, the screenplay settles down to show them at work in a series of undeniably effective sequences of them rushing into enormous conflagrations that director Joseph Kosinski stages in ways that are visually spectacular and increasingly tense without going too far overboard in the effects department. Out of the flames, the personal issues of Marsh and McDonough are handled in a direct and relatively non-maudlin manner. There are also a number of good performances to be had from the large ensemble cast with Brolin and Connelly standing out for the way that they take their potentially cliched characters—the gruff guy in charge and the wife left back home to worry about whether she will ever see her husband again—and invest them with real life and personality. Best of all is Jeff Bridges, who finally sheds the blend of Yosemite Sam and Anthony Hopkins in his later scenes in “Legends of the Fall” that has been his default setting for a while now and delivers his most effective performance in recent memory—there is one brief moment when his character reacts to some very bad news he has just heard over the phone that may well be one of the most powerful things that he has ever done.

                            Despite its early unevenness, “Only the Brave” tells its story in a sincere and relatively non-exploitative manner that isn’t overly dominated by visual effects, and the cast does some very good work as well. Whether anyone will actually want to pay money to see it, especially in the wake of the devastating wildfires that are currently decimating Northern California, remains to be seen, but those that do should come away from it feeling moved, if not exactly entertained.

                            By: Peter Sobczynski
                            Posted: October 19, 2017, 1:48 pm