The Morning After: Jun. 15, 2015

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

In Bruges

Two actors at the top of their game, Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell play hitmen sent to Bruges to await orders from their unscrupulous boss played by Ralph Fiennes. As Farrell’s Ray descends into depression over his accidental murder of an innocent bystander, Gleeson’s Ken is assign the difficult task of kill him for his indiscretion.

In his feature debut, Martin McDonagh gives us a contemplative portrait of duty, recrimination and guilt as characters who are seldom portrayed as anything but driven, are deconstructed into flawed individuals struggling to come to terms with their past misdeeds and going to extreme lengths to assuage their guilt and loyalty.

Farrell has never been better. Ray is frustrated, disjointed and miserable, delving into his monstrous soul to rationalize his failure. As the stress of the event batters his heart, he finally has enough of it all and decides to do something about it. Gleeson has been doing fine work for years and this is another terrific example. Conflicted between loyalty to Fiennes’ Harry and friendship for the young assassin who’s taking his last job poorly, Gleeson makes one catastrophic, but ennobling decision after another, risking wrath and retribution.

We complain a lot about the lack of originality in Hollywood and, even more recently, in indie cinema, but this is a prime example of where the niche market can find something credible, capable and fascinating without reinventing the wheel, but doing so in the process.

Jurassic World

Make no bones about it, the original Jurassic Park is as much a horror film as it is a family adventure film. Amidst the “oohs” and “aahs,” there’s running and screaming. Jurassic World forsakes the two intervening films to act as a natural successor 22 years after the first feature debuts amping up the action and adventure while simultaneously increasing the family dynamics and relationships.

Colin Treverrow, who directed the marvelous Safety Not Guaranteed seems to have lost his witty snark and playful lunacy to helm a big, occasionally brash blockbuster that piles on plot strings that weigh it down instead of letting it soar.

Chris Pratt has a legendary charm that can carry even the worst films. This film doesn’t showcase his talents as an actor, but the audience won’t be that concerned as long as he delivers requisite one-liners and gets to act smarter than everyone else. Slightly removed from his more iconic portrayal in Guardians of the Galaxy, Pratt struggles to differentiate his character enough to shine.

Apart from Bryce Dallas Howard, the cast seem reticent to give this film much effort. Vincent D’Onofrio, coming off a superb season on Netflix’s Daredevil, digs into a paper-thin villain with no shame for the act.

No one is coming to this film for the acting, as disappointing as that might be to some. The graphics are solid, the excitement palpable, but there are too many shock moments that threaten to unhinge the more sensitive elements dotting the picture. This is an entertaining, but severely flawed film that could have used a more skilled re-write.

Mother’s Day

After helming three parts of the Saw trilogy and creating a piece of cult history in Repo!, director Darren Lynn Bousman loosely adapted Charles Kaufman’s 1980 feature about a sadistic mother encouraging her sons to rape and murder in her name. Here, the utter abandon of the original is jettisoned for a more comprehensive and developed screenplay.

Rebecca De Mornay, who doesn’t arrive until late in the film, plays “Mother” Koffin, a seemingly principled bank robbery architect trying to clean up the mess her sons have created by botching their most recent task. After they’ve sought her out in a house she no longer owns, they are met by a houseful of people celebrating on the night of a deadly storm. As Mother Koffin tries to extract enough money to help them flee the country, the body count rises as her duplicitous, treacherous and deadly dangerous ways begin building a body count.

Horror films have grown rather simplistic in recent years, focusing on delivering the most bloody and exhausting slaughters they can while ignoring the challenges of developing a competent, convincing plot. Mother’s Day doesn’t quite achieve convincing, but with the help of experienced menacer De Mornay, the film goes a long way towards creating a sense of competency and inventiveness. Eighteen years after her Oscar-caliber performance in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, De Mornay is showing these young actors just how it’s all done. The rest of the cast is from the modern era of horror acting, De Mornay remains a class act creating utter revulsion at her sweetness and simutlaneous depravity.

With De Mornay and Scott Milam’s strong screenplay, the film carefully straddles the line between quality and crappy. That’s an achievement in itself and can allow a modicum of forgiveness for some of its weaker elements.

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