The Predator

Directed by Shane Black

Starring – Sterling K Brown, Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn

The Plot – From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the predator walks again. Now, the universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a young boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.

Rated R for strong bloody violence, adult language throughout, and crude sexual references

POSITIVES

– Coveted R-rating. Thankfully Shane Black knows the kind of adult material required to properly convey the ferocity of the Predator character, and this film makes the most of opportunities that other Predator movies weren’t fortunate enough to get. This latest chapter is bloodier (Albeit C.G blood), cruder, and especially the most violent of the series thus far. Simply put, you can’t succeed in a movie like this if you don’t give yourself the chance, and there’s zero limitations in terms of the influence of those things that I previously mentioned.

– As a writer, Black dabbles a lot in the Predator folklore and ideals for a franchise that six films in still feels very cryptic. This really feels like the first time we’ve ever tried to understand the culture of this alien race, and what their soul purpose is for frequently visiting our planet. Does every idea succeed? Absolutely not, but the layers that Black has given this iconic character certainly opens the door of experimentation for future films to soak in.

– Treasures its past. What I love perhaps the most about this film is that it is a sequel, first and foremost. In the era of reboots and rehashes, ‘The Predator’ continues the thirty year continuity with a chapter that bridges the gaps of the previous films, including many winks and nods to characters and invasions that only hardcore fans of the series would understand. Why reboot a series that frankly hasn’t even tipped the iceberg in terms of its creativity? Instead, cherishing the past will undoubtedly enhance the appeal of the future.

– The Predator’s costume is still one of the coolest in all of horror, and we are treated to several lengthy vantage points of its artistic integrity. The regular Predator has so much practical layers to it, and the new “Super-Predator” simply cannot compete with its ingenuity. What’s even more effective is that the movements of the actor inside the suit doesn’t feel hindered or compromised because of suffocating weight, giving whoever the ability to move as fast as the scene or sequence requires.

NEGATIVES

– Poorly edited. A question arose every ten minutes of my showing for this film, and I feel like a lot of people will suffer a similar fate because of the horrendous job of visual storytelling that this film merits for itself. Character deaths are missed by choppy cuts, certain characters feel like they transport from one room to the next between cuts because there’s no scene in between to bridge the time of travel, and days feel like they rub together because of how a scene taking place on Halloween cut and pasted a daytime and nighttime scene literally back-to-back.

– Do you watch a Predator movie to laugh? I certainly don’t. It’s not that I have a problem with humor being a part of the Predator franchise. Hell, there were great male sex jokes in the original movie. But you have to know where to draw the line, especially when it diminishes the line of suspense that this film goes without throughout its entirety. The comedy for the most part works in generating its intended laughter, but in going to this well far too many times, you start to lose sight of what kind of tone this film should rightfully be.

– One-off scene problem. This question will only be familiar to people who see the film, but how the fuck did the main protagonist swallow that enormous metal object in the beginning of the film? My suspension of disbelief can only go so far, and there’s no physical way that anyone on this planet could swallow or stomach something so abnormally big for the human throat.

– Pedestrian performances. I didn’t hate anyone’s work in this film. After all, poor character direction can only take you so far. But nobody in this movie feels believable in the roles they adopt. Olivia Munn is arguably the least convincing doctor that I have ever seen. A fellow doctor asks her how she got this far, and her reply is “I wrote a note to the president when I was a little girl, that said if an alien race was discovered, I want to examine it”. For a second, I wondered if this was a joke, and that something bigger was coming, but no, that’s the explanation we as an audience are treated to. Beyond this Holbrook’s leading man lacks enough charisma to be the true focus, and is responsible for most of the trouble that his group of misfits encounter. Donald K. Sterling is entirely wasted, being in the film for about fifteen total minutes, only to chime in when the film requires sloppy exposition to counter its minimal storytelling balance. It’s a shame too, because Sterling’s energy does give sagging scenes a much-needed pick-up, but Black never commits himself beyond billing to be a main character.

– Lack of geography or telegraphing within the action sequences. In addition to the various choppy editing that I already mentioned, what makes these scenes of havoc so difficult to interpret is the poor lighting associated with shooting these scenes at night. This pales in comparison to the final fifteen minutes of the movie however, as the last big bang by the two sides at war goes by so lightning quick, yet its pacing somehow feels like it takes a lifetime to get through. This is of course because we as an audience can’t read properly into what is happening to who, therefore diminishing your interest and forcing you to keep checking your watch to see how much is left.

– Takes far too long in getting to the movie that was advertised. To anyone who watched the deceiving trailer, you can put together that this is a film about humans battling a Predator, when a bigger, badder Predator shows up. That’s it. But in getting to that subplot (Yes I said subplot), you must first tread through fifty minutes of government agencies, dismissed soldiers, and scenes so full of dialogue that it would make Quentin Tarrantino say “Enough is enough”. Once we finally get the movie that was promised, it never feels like the most interesting or focused-upon material of the movie. For all of its hype, the super Predator is just a bigger version of the already dangerous model one, and his terrible C.G influence makes me want to cancel the upgrade, and instead stick with the original that is already proven.

4/10

Kin

Directed by Jonathan and Josh Baker

Starring – Myles Truitt, Dennis Quaid, James Franco

The Plot – The story of an unexpected hero destined for greatness. Chased by a vengeful criminal (Franco), the feds and a gang of otherworldly soldiers,? a recently released ex-con Jimmy (Jack Reynor) and his adopted teenage brother Eli (Myles Truitt) are forced to go on the run with a weapon of mysterious origin as their only protection.

Rated PG-13 for gun violence and intense action, suggestive material, adult language, thematic elements and drinking

POSITIVES

– When this film focuses on the brotherly element being the forefront for the story, it’s surprisingly a lot of fun. For my benefit, the time when this is a road trip movie that pays homage to the grown up children’s movies of the late 80’s/early 90’s it works the best, and makes the most sense to the film’s title that articulates how the only thing these brothers have in this world are each other.

– Perfect film location. This film takes place in Detroit, Michigan, a city that is no stranger to the live fast style that many youths grow up with, and that concept in establishing the stage emphasizes why these characters have fallen on such hard times in each of their respective lives. For Eli, being a youth in this geography leaves him with little hope at a positive future, and it’s only until Jimmy comes back in his life where he realizes he’s not alone in the effects that this place has had on both of them.

– Tightly shot action sequences. Perhaps the biggest surprise to ‘Kin’ is that it is filmed competently enough, bringing a wide range of angle accessibility, as well as impact in devastation that makes its weight feel believable. The shot composition is versatile in its documentation of the fast firepower that comes in its direction, but thanks to the lack of shaking camera effects and average spring of cuts in between that feels nice on the eyes, we never miss any of the carnage.

– Performances over characters. This is a prime example of when a script does no favors for outlining exposition of each character, so the talented cast must go into business for themselves. Surprisingly, this is Truitt’s first feature length film, bringing with him a lot of heartache and isolation in Eli that would otherwise be mulled over in the establishing introductions. Reynor does wonders as the single dumbest character that I have seen in 2018. Thankfully, even though this character angered me on several occasions, for the selfish choices he makes, his chemistry with Truitt moves this film miles, and much of the dramatic pulse weighs heavily on their interaction with one another. I also can’t forget to mention Franco as the film’s gun-toting antagonist. James has played a villain character before, but never as energetic or as impulsive as he does with this opportunity. When you get a chance to urinate on a gas station floor, you call James Franco. He is Mister Dependable in that regards.

NEGATIVES

– Terminator Part duh? I don’t want to channel what thought process the Baker brothers were conjuring up when they wrote ‘Kin’, but I can bet it was within days of watching the Terminator franchise. Not only are plot points touched on from this respective influence, but scenes are completely played out action for action, and it’s in that obvious influence where this film constantly struggles to find a voice of its own.

– Convoluted third act dooms this one completely. For my money, the science fiction element is what dooms this film, because it’s in that where you start to see how shoe-horned this idea is with its minimal time allowance. The scenes with the gun constantly feel like they serve as a reminder that this element is still there in the film, waiting to jump in, and it picks the final ten minutes of the movie to transform what realism and grounded actions it took in the previous 80 minutes of the film to compromise it for some details that come completely out of left field.

– Indecisions doom what could’ve been. Simply put, this film tries to move in too many directions for it to ever work out to its benefit. Of the subgenres that I counted in this movie, it’s a road movie, a family drama, a violent crime shoot-em-up, and an offbeat science fiction thriller. It’s a virtual tug-of-war for creative control, and all of its disjointed pieces never form together to make one creatively cohesive project, choosing instead to throw a bunch of ideas at the wall to see what sticks. As it turns out, little does.

– Questionable cameo. In addition to everything else wrong with the film’s final ten minutes, the surprise reveal of a certain celebrity made me scratch my head for how little this person has to do. If you pay close attention to the credits at the beginning of the film, you can figure it out pretty easily, but it’s obvious that this actor wanted very little to do on-screen with this film, because they are visually represented for a matter of five minutes. Why not introduce them early on for more celebrity firepower? See my theory two sentences ago.

– Limited by its rating. Besides the fact that I still wonder what age group this film is geared towards, I scratch my head even more at the scenes that can’t be fully attained by such a tight rating from the academy. There’s a strip club scene with the dancers wearing jean shorts, gun violence that shows limited penetration and absolutely zero blood, and curse words that were obviously edited out post production with terrible A.D.R. This continues the realization that this film had zero confidence in the original vision that it had for itself, choosing instead to cross promote itself to anyone that would bite.

– Questions I have. As a nod to how much this film couldn’t explain in logic, I have gathered a couple of questions for the Baker Brothers that maybe they can someday answer. Minor spoilers ahead. Why would Taylor (Franco), a gang leader in Detroit, agree to arrange for Jimmy’s in-prison protection for sixty grand, not demand any of the money until he serves a full sentence, and then wonder why he can’t pay him when he gets out of prison? Why would a murder in Detroit turn up on a news broadcast in Nevada? Why is Carrie Coon given second-billing for the eight valuable minutes of screen time that was completely forgettable? Where the hell is Sulaco County in Nevada? and finally how did a team leave behind a gun so important, in a place where literally anyone could get it? Couldn’t they have just left it in Eli’s bag or house, or something more available to the one party?

4/10

The Happytime Murders

Directed by Brian Henson

Starring – Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph

The Plot – A murder mystery set in a world where humans and puppets co-exist, but puppets are viewed as second-class citizens. When the puppet cast of an ’80s children’s TV show begins to get murdered one by one, a former cop (McCarthy), who has since become a private eye, takes on the case.

Rated R for strong crude and sexual content and adult language throughout, and some drug material

POSITIVES

– This is a funny movie without question. Whether it’s the practical sight gags of two puppets having sex, or the witty banter of McCarthy and her Private Investigator partner, somewhere some way this film is going to make you laugh, and its consistency rate is one that certainly warrants you the ability to give it a chance. My problems with the material itself, I will get to later, but you will have to have lockjaw to escape this film without falling under its spell a time or two.

– Superb cast all around. McCarthy never feels too good or famous for the material, instead having the time of her life playing against manufactured character properties while investing every bit of her body into each scene. The real movie-stealer though, is Bill Baretta (Perfect name) as the film’s central protagonist puppet. Baretta is famous as a voice actor, working with Henson properties in the recent Muppet movies, as well as a decades long career that translates his versatility in vocal range. Here, he voices three different characters, all of which sound different and delivery, but all of which hit their marks with the kind of precision of guidance that a film like this requires. Baretta’s raspy delivery is perfect for a crime noir story of this magnitude, and the chemistry between he and McCarthy transcends the hollow property that his voice is reduced to.

– Hard-hitting fight sequences. Considering the production is working with puppets, it’s incredible to see the tricks that they do in camera angles and editing to make this flow so smoothly. Most of the time, you get puppet movements in movies that feel uninspiring, lacking believability that they move without human interaction, but in ‘The Happytime Murders’ every movement responds well enough so that the puppet characters echo off of their human counterparts with little to no resistance, making for fast-paced action that rarely relents.

– No matter how you feel about the film after you see it, please make sure you stay for the credits, as there’s a brief making-of montage that colorfully illustrates how the puppet effects worked. What’s so captivating about this, is that it’s mostly green-screen digitalization that impacts why this was the perfect place and perfect time for a film like this. As to where the film fell by the wayside by the third act, I could definitely watch two hours of production features for an ensemble team who kept such a tight grip on creativity.

NEGATIVES

– Fails as a crime noir story as a whole. This is a film that is every bit predictably bland as it is compromising to its own gimmick, and both of those make the introductory intention to cast this film alongside a classic like ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ that much more depleting when compared to a film that came out thirty years ago. There’s no style to compliment the gritty nature of the street game, and my ability to figure out the murderer in the opening ten minutes made me feel like I was constantly waiting for the movie to play catch-up. Even more disappointing, the film forgets about this noir style of audible narration midway through the movie.

– There are absolutely no established rules for the puppets and what counts as a vital blow. In one scene, a character is taking several punches by a human biker gang and saying that he can’t feel them because he’s virtually a soft pillow, then in the next scene he’s near death because of a gunshot wound. You can’t do one without the other, so which is it? These characters don’t have organs, yet McCarthy’s character was saved early in her career because she has a puppet liver. Also, where do puppets come from? Are they stitched? Are they born? I know it’s pointless to argue about the rules in a puppet movie, but the film’s repeated contradictions are simply too frequent to ignore.

– Repetition in material. Once you get over the giggles of seeing a puppet curse, take drugs, and have sex, you start to understand how limited this movie’s appeal truly is. Smart writing to me should work whether the characters are human or not, and there’s no way that this juvenile material would have the same effect in a film entirely with human characters. As I mentioned earlier, I did laugh quite a few times at it, but that’s mostly in the third act when the basis of the material is still very fresh. After twenty minutes, you’ll be screaming enough is enough.

– Sloppy third act. Not only does the film reveal the murderer far too early, with nearly thirty minutes left, but it also reverts to improv humor of the worst kind from two of its female leads. McCarthy and Rudolph are the culprits, and because they’ve been in every other movie together we must have an out-of-place scene between them despite their characters having no interaction up to this point, where the material stretches as long as the pacing does. Once the mystery is revealed, we should theoretically wrap the movie up, but the storytelling is still piling miles of unnecessary exposition down our throats, making the final act of the film an arduous race to the finish line.

– Nothing subversive at play here. As to where a film like ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ was intelligent enough to articulate the underlying issue of cop/minority relations, ‘The Happytime Murders’ has nothing remotely thoughtful to grab onto. This film is based purely for shock factor, nothing more. It’s lacking in a deeper motion to prove that it is something entirely different than the shock-and-awe factor that is plastered all over the trailers.

– As someone who understands the impact that puppets can have on immersing people into a particular world, it’s slightly surprising that a Henson directed this. The production quality is cheap, the puppets lack any kind of eye-catching detail, and the presentation never lifts itself from this stilted quality that limits it at every turn. This is great for a short film or a limited Youtube series, but as a feature film the benefits rarely materialize, making for a sit that is every bit as frustrating as it is boring.

4/10

Billionaire Boys Club

Directed by James Cox

Starring – Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton, Kevin Spacey

The Plot – A modern day remake of the 1987 film by the same name, the film is about A group of wealthy boys in Los Angeles during the early 1980s, who establish a ‘get-rich-quick’ scam that turns deadly.

Rated R for adult language throughout, drug use, some violence and sexual content

POSITIVES

– If there’s any reason to see this film, it’s for Spacey’s energetic delivery as the film’s most experienced con-man. While it definitely makes me shudder to say anything complimentary of Kevin, it goes without saying that this film is enhanced whenever he enters the room, and flounders whenever he disappears. As for the rest, Elgort is terribly miscast, Egerton is failing at his best Leonardo Dicaprio impression, and Emma Roberts is completely phoning in what little material the script has for her.

– Hip 80’s soundtrack. ‘Only You’ by Yazoo is one of my personal favorite new wave favorites, but when it is presented on the same collection with Talking Heads ‘This Must Be the Place’, as well as ‘Let’s Dance’ by David Bowie, you have one of the very best assorted soundtracks in 2018. I couldn’t wait to hear what popped up next, and it’s clear that music has a very pivotal place in Cox re-imagining of this world.

– No expense spared on production aspects. The fashion trends, cars, and neon landscapes do an excellent job of elevating the important details, both big and small, giving life to the pulse of Los Angeles terrifically. This at least allowed the time period of the story to thrive visually, while almost every other aspect of the movie never lived up.

– Informative, tightly-edited 80’s montage sequences that translate the very vibe of the times. If the feature film world falters for Cox eventually, he has a place in visual storytelling in the eye of documentaries, because these instances are magnetic.

NEGATIVES

– As an adaptation of the real life events, this barely scratches the surface. The film greatly lacks the attention that is needed in depicting the transformation of Joe’s character over time with the influence of corporate greed, and truly makes him a roarschach test when it comes to gauging his reactions to the inevitable downturn that his company takes. Beyond this, subplots and character habits feel like they come out of nowhere, making this feel like a film that is cut in half, with the deleted half catering to those important bits of information.

– Doesn’t bother with backstory or character development, breezing through the first act like an afterthought. Most importantly, the friendship between Joe and Dean never feels fleshed out enough, leaving a vital bond to the story on the cutting room floor. Because of such, the third act greatly lacks the kind of impact that it so desperately yearned for.

– Tries to capitalize on the exuberance and seediness with greed that a film like ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ tapped into effortlessly. There are plenty of instances when this feels like the Redbox version of such mentioned feats, even so much as mirroring much of Wolf’s first act scenes and situations beat-for-beat, but continuously lacking the appeal in intimate details necessary to engage the audience in its schemes. Because of this, nothing in the film ever felt believable or gripping to me, and constantly gave me the overwhelming feeling that I was one-up on the intelligence factor over investors of the 80’s.

– Undercooked love interest in the film. Because every film in 2018 requires a love story, we get one here as well, and it lacks the chemistry and conviction between Elgort and Roberts for audiences to believe it. As opposed to the lack of time devoted to the friendship of Elgort and Egerton, the love subplot is given plenty of time to prosper, but simmers because of the lack of bond that never develops with time.

– Pointless voice-over narration. It is (Once again) pointless in its usage, and more importantly adds nothing to the storytelling that we as an audience can’t already interpret. You could literally close your eyes and just listen to the obvious narration, and you will have a clear vision for what is transpiring on-screen. As if you needed another reason to not watch this film.

– Abrupt, un-satisfying ending. It feels like the film is just getting going when it’s ready to say goodbye, and it makes the mistake where it tells but doesn’t show what happens to those guilty of everything that takes place in the film. The most fascinating angles of this story are those that take place off-screen, and it’s the final nail in the coffin for a story that was told so much better on a 45 minute Youtube documentary that I watched before it.

4/10

The Spy Who Dumped Me

Directed by Susanna Fogel

Starring – Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Sam Heughan

The Plot – Audrey (Kunis) and Morgan (McKinnon), two thirty-year-old best friends in Los Angeles, are thrust unexpectedly into an international conspiracy when Audrey’s ex-boyfriend shows up at their apartment with a team of deadly assassins on his trail. Surprising even themselves, the duo jump into action, on the run throughout Europe from assassins and a suspicious-but-charming British agent, as they hatch a plan to save the world.

Rated R for violence, adult language throughout, some crude sexual material and graphic nudity

POSITIVES

– Where this film would work and actually receive a passing grade from me, is the action. This is a solid action film that was spoon-forced to be a comedy, and it’s in those action elements where this movie greatly surprised me. Aside from exciting and well telegraphed sequences, the film is unforgivable in its never-ending violence, making the most of its coveted R-rating to satisfy the gore hound in all of us. It at least kept me awake through a movie that otherwise bored the hell out of me.

– In addition to the action, the sound design and overall mixing is riveting. When this film comes out, it greatly deserves the IMAX or XD options, because it rattles the auditorium with every pulse-setting crunch that the mayhem can muster. Most notably through a car chase sequence through downtown Prague, the volume of carnage flew high over the uninspired musical score, giving me many moments of wincing when the building blow finally landed.

– Female empowerment. The film does at least succeed in its message of manufacturing a product for the ladies that is full proof with those ladies nights out. With a cast that is female majority, as well as a valuable female antagonist character who kicks ass for all of the right reasons, ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ at least remains faithful to its strong gender values, even through a finale that almost soiled it all together.

– One of the things that this film does right halfway through the movie, is dump Kunis as the leading lady, and focus a majority of its time more on McKinnon, who while not working with her best material, does at least conjure up the most energy in delivery to this picture. Kate is given such ample time to aim and impress, and whether or not the comedy in the film works for you, you will at least be thankful that a script finally gave her a leading chance to run unopposed.

NEGATIVES

– What a mess of muddled storytelling. The film follows two on-going narratives, one for the modern day unraveling story, and one for the night Kunis and her male spy suitor met in a dive bar. The reason for this decision not only adds nothing of shock value or discovery for us the audience, but disjoints the hell out of the transition edits between them, requiring you to take a minute to remember that the latter story is unfortunately still continuing.

– If you can’t get the comedy right in an action comedy, you will have one boring film, and that’s what we’re left with here. The humor in this film isn’t just bad, it’s downright humiliating, throwing out a combination of god awful puns and animated delivery of dialogue that never feels authentic or earned. I managed to remember my two most offensive puns because they burned in my memory like a childhood trauma. The first involves Kunis character holding up a severed thumb with Mckinnon chiming in “Thumbs up”. The second, and one that gave me hard edge proof that God doesn’t exist, is a scene with Mckinnon dressed in an awful ensemble, and Kunis says to her “You look like a French curtain”, to which Mckinnon replies “Because I can hanggggg”.

– Too many twists. While you can easily predict where this story is headed, you find yourself weighed down heavily by the ridiculousness in ever-changing scenarios that don’t make sense the more you think about them. This is a 107 minute movie that shouldn’t be a minute over 90, especially when you consider that so much of the second and third acts revolve around the tables turning multiple times, diminishing the returns and shock value greatly, because the film goes to this well too many times.

– The ladies begin their foreign adventure after taking a flight from Los Angeles. The problem is that they do it spontaneously, so on the very hour that they are flying out, they not only manage to easily navigate their way through the busiest airport in the country, but also manage to find two tickets next to each other for a flight that is minutes away. Imagine the coincidence. I certainly can’t.

– My biggest problem with the casting of Kunis and Mckinnon isn’t so much that they lack any kind of chemistry between them, but rather how unconvincing they both feel in these particular roles. As characters, these are any typical woman disappointed by life and the curves that it continuously throws. Because the film is in a hurry during the first act, we are never offered a shade of depth or development between them that makes you empathize with their danger or at the very least Kunis’s on-screen break-up (That amazingly enough we never see). Kunis and Mckinnon never make the roles their own, and it leads you to believe that any two leading ladies in Hollywood could easily come in and do as good, if not a better, job than these two.

– Noticeably negative production aspects. The Green-screen backdrops during the driving sequences make the outline of the characters stick out like a third-dimension, and the A.D.R is some of the most glaring lack of fluidity that I have seen in 2018. On the latter, there’s a lot of over-the-shoulder shots, and when these happen the volume of the dialogue increases dramatically where it doesn’t feel synthetic with that of the actor they are conversing with. This is just sloppy post production all around, and proves just how much passion was put into a project that serves as nothing but a cheap manipulation for female audience members to spend their money to support girl power.

4/10

350 Days

Directed by Fulvio Cecere

Starring – Bret Hart, Ted Dibiase, Greg Valentine

The Plot – Get a behind-the-scenes look at the world of professional wrestling featuring interviews and photographs with legendary wrestlers and rare in-ring footage! Starring former champions Bret Hart and Billy Graham, it’s a true look behind the curtains at the grueling life they led on the road 350 days a year and the effect it had on their marriages, family, physical and mental health. Featuring Greg Valentine, Tito Santana, Paul Orndorff, Abdullah The Butcher, Wendi Richter, Bill Eadie, Nikolai Volkoff, Stan Hansen, Angelo Mosca, Lex Luger, and more, the event also includes some of the last interviews ever done with George Steele, Jimmy Snuka, Ox Baker, The Wolfman, Don Fargo, and Angelo Savoldi. Plus, an exclusive introduction and interview with JJ Dillon (manager of The Four Horsemen) to discuss the current state of professional wrestling.

Currently not rated

POSITIVES

– For anyone who is new to professional wrestling, or seeks more knowledge about the profession, ‘350 Days’ is an intricate starting chapter full of unlimited knowledge. This is an unabashed and candid look behind the curtain of entertainment that is second only to magicians in terms of secrecy, and through the many legends that are interviewed for it we get many horrific examples in and around wrestling that prove that fame comes with quite a steep price.

– Beyond its unlimited knowledge, the film is also responsible in the direction it takes with letting the audience decide if it’s worth it or not, once all of the facts are presented. It would be easy to glorify this sport in the eyes of a wrestling fan director or in the hundreds interviewed for the picture, but I appreciate that the material paints the sport as something that isn’t for everyone, asking several times if they can fight through the pain.

– There are some never-before-seen pictures that are displayed throughout the film that reveal talent in their most personable stages. These were perhaps the parts of the movie that were the most beneficial to a wrestling fan like me, because especially in the 80’s, you never got as much exposure backstage as you do in modern wrestling, and some of these rare prints gave me lots of intrigue while painting a vivid picture of the atmosphere that is covered throughout nearly two hours.

– Bret Hart is my all time favorite wrestler, so I appreciated that he more than anyone took the reigns midway through the film and became the on-going narrator of sorts. Beyond being a master historian, Bret is someone whose honesty has always carved out an opinion that you either love or hate him for, but either way there is probably no one better to speak who has been through the many stages of independent and big league wrestling to compare and contrast.

NEGATIVES

– This documentary reeks of a cheap production sprinkled throughout. Above everything else, it is in the use of pictures over video footage that clearly illustrates how the filmmakers were unable to attain the rights to show these special instances. While I mentioned earlier how I appreciated the pictures, a modern documentary can only go so far on storytelling and pictures alone that eventually it needs video evidence as a dramatization for what is being discussed.

– Terrible editing and scene transitions that could’ve easily used another director’s cut. Sometimes interviews drop out with little leading that the interview is concluded, sometimes the next person will cut off the previous person before they are finished talking, and sometimes wrong pictures will show when we begin to hear a voice, and that person won’t be the one in the picture. On the latter, there were so many times when I was deceived on thinking a particular person was in the film, only to discover that the picture had nothing to do with the voice of who was speaking, and it eventually got aggravating.

– At 110 minutes, this film is simply far too repetitive to keep you intrigued. With the many topics, it discusses the outline first, then eventually says how it effects each wrestler speaking. The problem with that is how many wrestlers were brought in for this project, so we have to get every single wrestler’s opinion on every single subject, and it all just blends together with repeating the same outline.

– Which brings me to my next problem; there is no minimum for who is invited to speak on this project. No disrespect to certain wrestlers, but some of these names I’ve never even remotely heard of, forcing me to lose interest every time one of them appeared on screen. In my opinion, the film should’ve stuck with the 12 wrestlers featured on the poster and just given more time to them. No film, documentary or screen play, should ever be introducing new characters with ten minutes left in the movie.

– There is a musical score in this film that is every bit repetitive as it is generic. Not that I expect versatility in a documentary about professional wrestling, but in hearing the same riffs over a repeated fifteen second offering, I was reminded of my many years playing 8 bit Nintendo games, where a repeated riff like on Friday the 13th or Who Framed Roger Rabbit could make you want to punch baby seals. ‘350 Days’ takes this gimmick and pushes it to such annoying levels that I crouched lower in my seat every time I knew a musical montage of pictures was coming.

– I have a ton of respect for Cecere’s first delve into the director’s chair, but ‘350 Days’ is every bit as unfocused as it is redundant, leaving very little impression or style to compliment his brand of filmmaking that makes this project stick out in any possible way. The very lack of direction in this film could’ve come from anyone, but it turns out that it’s helmed by an actor who has over 200 roles to date, proving that while he shines in front of the camera, he has much to learn about commanding behind one.

4/10

The Catcher Was A Spy

Directed by Ben Lewin

Starring – Paul Rudd, Connie Nielsen, Mark Strong

The Plot – In the midst of World War II, major league catcher Moe Berg (Rudd) is drafted to join a new team: the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA). No ordinary ballplayer, the erudite, Jewish Ivy League graduate speaks nine languages and is a regular guest on a popular TV quiz show. Despite his celebrity, Berg is an enigma – a closeted gay man with a knack for keeping secrets. The novice spy is quickly trained and sent into the field to stop German scientist Werner Heisenberg before he can build an atomic bomb for the Nazis.

Rated R for some sexuality, violence, and adult language

POSITIVES

– There’s a surprise behind every corner with the casting. Even if you’ve seen the poster for this film, that lists the names of the film’s top three or four stars, there’s enough cameo drop-ins to establish this as possibly the best ensemble cast of randomly assorted actors that I have seen in 2018.

– Most importantly, this is a chance for Rudd to diverse himself and shine in a genre that he isn’t exactly known for, and even though the direction does him little favors in terms of character development, Rudd supplants enough range to silence the doubters. In particular, Rudd’s surprising success vocalizing a wide range of accents are authentic enough to pay respects to the real life Berg, who went through endless training to attain his transformation.

– Strong camera work all around. The war scenes feel claustrophobic, following our leads with dedicated conviction, and the character exchanges off the field of battle revolve circularly around them to reflect the passing and race against the clock.

– As a biopic, it’s certainly true that The Catcher Was A Spy is a deeply flawed movie, but as a character roarschach test during the World War II era, it specializes on leaving mystery to the man to even make the audience question his directions. What this does in terms of benefit is firmly establish the uncertainty that filled the air during such a trivial time in our world’s history, feeding into the very mystery surrounding the job of being a spy.

NEGATIVES

– Television movie-of-the-week production values. This film is cut short around nearly every corner; poor interior lighting, choppy editing that feel like they cut scenes in half, and most obviously these tight shots of battlefield backdrops that relate how cost-cutting this whole thing truly is. Perhaps the budget was spent on the deep ensemble cast for the movie, because on camera it’s simply not there.

– The screenplay feels like a bunch of scattered puzzle pieces that never form a bigger picture when put together. What’s even further troubling is that there is no weight that carries over to the next scene to keep you interested. Everything feels like it continuously starts over the train of momentum, and it flies off of its tracks and derails each and every time.

– Perhaps my biggest trouble with the film is the overwhelming amount of time dedicated to the uncertainty of Moe’s love life, instead of elevating this as the spy thriller of sorts that the film’s excitement level so desperately needs. Not that this angle is reached with a level of success. This film very much drops the ball on understanding gay relationships during such a time period, but burden of repetition from a surface level only, doesn’t do enough to withstand any waning interest in the film.

– Cringing dialogue. I could mention a few different line reads during this film, but only one truly awful line is so bad to sum up everything that the script harvests. Moe is asked by a captain “Are you a Jew?”, to which Moe replies “Ehhhhh Jew-ish”. I slapped my head three times after hearing this, and you should too.

– Much of the film’s miniscule run time of 89 minutes does favors for the often-times sluggish pacing, but it works dramatically against learning anything beyond the Wikipedia summary about Moe the person. Far often, he lacks the kind of personal reflection from being saddled in a foreign land that you don’t ever get the chance to feel empathy for his disposition of having to give up the game he loves.

– From a baseball aesthetic and fact checker, the film gets everything wrong about the lone professional baseball scene in the movie. From the lack of names mentioned during commentary, to the incorrect caps and jersey’s used for the particular time period, this film stumbles on even the smallest of details, plaguing it again to its cheap production that distances itself from that big screen feel.

4/10

Best F(r)iends

Directed by Justin MacGregor

Starring – Greg Sestero, Tommy Wiseau, Kristen StephensonPino

The Plot – When a drifter (Sestero) is taken in by a peculiar mortician (Wiseau), the two hatch an underground enterprise off the back of the mortician’s old habits. But greed, hatred, and jealousy soon come in turn, and their efforts unravel, causing the drifter to run off with the spoils and leaving the mortician adrift. An expedition across the South West introduces wild and crazy characters through a series of twisted and dark foibles as both men learn a valuable lesson about friendship and loyalty.

Currently Not Rated

POSITIVES

– If you take nothing else from this curvy, bloated mess, take in their own weird way, Sestero and Wiseau embody everything about the very definition of the word friendship. Much can be joked about how the term friend is used as much in Wiseau films as the term family is used in Fast and Furious films, but once all of the pieces have settled into place and you see the bigger picture, you can admire the vantage point of embracing one of life’s most cherished gifts.

– There is very little that is actually predictable about this film. Because this feels like a horror film of sorts from the start, it requires audiences to hang onto every word and development that comes at this duo of friends. This is of course easier to do during volume 1, as the convoluted second half film compromised almost everything that was great about the first two hours.

– The performances are the meat on the bone of this otherwise malnourishing screenplay. Wiseau’s zany and awkward personality feels welcome and appropriate as a mortician, speaking levels to the concept of isolation that has shaped the kindred spirit that is front and center at this film. Sestero has greatly improved, harvesting an emotional prowess that speaks levels to the misery in backstory that his character has experienced. Thankfully, Greg is given ample time to stake his character’s case without the influence of Wiseau, and because of such we embrace hints at something darker going on just beneath his surface.

– Mesmerizing musical score by Imagine Dragons drummer Daniel Platzman. The synthesizer tones of new age 80’s mixes well with techno percussions of the 90’s, forming a marriage in score that floats a cloud above this ominous setting. There were plenty of times during the film when I was drifting off, but almost acting as a dreamy blanket of comfort keeping me from the clutches of slumber and forcing me to stay awake.

NEGATIVES

– It doesn’t take a genius to bring up how unnecessary four total hours is between these two volumes. This is far from a complex and versatile screenplay, so to prolong it only further exploits the weaknesses that the film can never get away from. Lets put it like this; if The Wolf of Wall Street was able to tell its complete story in less than three hours, there is absolutely no reason a Tommy Wiseau film shouldn’t be able to do it in half that time. What’s aggravating is that even after four hours of screen time, the conclusion feels hollow, lacking clarity for the conflicts that feel inevitable.

– Adding to an immense run time, is some truly grounded pacing that limits the capabilities of these volumes merging together as one cohesive unit. Considering the first volume ends with a shocking development, the first thirty minutes of the second act completely drops the ball with the introduction of new characters and backstories that distance itself from the cliffhanger that we were previously left with.

– I mentioned earlier how the music is one of the biggest positives for the film, but the sound mixing incorporated within that musical score nearly compromises those eclectic tones. In addition to the musical score occasionally drowning out dialogue from the cast of characters, the pre-approved volume setting constantly raises and lowers from track to track without much precedent.

– In disassociating this from the lunacy of The Room, there’s an awkward cloud of pretentious filmmaking that rears its ugly head from time to time. Particularly in the closing moments of volume one, for whatever reasons there is a terribly crafted slowed-down effect that feels similar to your laptop freezing in place while the sound is still playing. Besides this, disjointed editing for the sake of it plagues the progression of the script over and over again. In a way, this is a puzzle with scattered pieces spread across, and it’s my opinion that a straight-forward narrative would’ve served this well with simplicity.

– The first volume is definitely the stronger of the two for me personally, because it competently juggles that combination of silly humor and awkward tension enveloping the air between our main duo. As for the second volume, the comic muscle is almost completely absent from what we’ve come to expect. Much of this can be attributed to that first volume conclusion and how the situation has amplified in terms of danger, but by ignoring what has put the butts in the seats, Best F(r)iends ultimately alienates its audience and leaves them with the inevitable taste of a one hit wonder from their mysterious hero Wiseau.

– Not that I expect a technical marvel when I watch a film starring Tommy Wiseau, but many of the scene transitions feel jaded with their sequencing. Volume two especially could use a subplot to play off of the developments between Sestero and his on-screen girlfriend’s characters, because the progression of their road trip feels terribly rushed when they are on-screen for one hundred percent of the time. As well, their characters 45 minutes of movements feels terribly stretched when they are asked to accommodate fans for two more hours after previously just doing it.

4/10

Bad Samaritan

Directed by Dean Devlin

Starring – David Tennant, Kerry Condon, Robert Sheehan

The Plot – A valet (Sheehan) develops a clever scam to burglarize the houses of rich customers. Things go smoothly until he robs the wrong customer (Tennant), and discovers ?a woman being held captive in his home. Afraid of going to prison, he leaves the woman there and makes a call to the police, who find nothing when they investigate. Now, the valet must endure the wrath of the kidnapper who seeks revenge on him, all while desperately trying to find and rescue the captive woman he left behind.

Rated R for violence, adult language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity

POSITIVES

– This is a film vehicle designed specifically to show off Tennant’s unshakeable talents. I say that because he was the most glaring positive that I took away from this movie. As the antagonist for the film, Tennant offers another rare glimpse of his growing personality that this time depicts a meticulous killer whose cunning intellect and shark-style eyes are his greatest strengths. He’s menacing when confronted by an enemy, and calculated in calm when confronted by authorities, crafting the kind of killer that drives audiences crazy because of how put together he is.

– Devlin brings the style. If you take away nothing else from the same man who brought us last year’s ‘Geostorm’, understand that he can grant a very serene kind of design to his thrillers. ‘Bad Samaritan’ often feels like it is in a nightmare dreamscape, capped off with glamorous lighting and sturdy camera work to give us a film that is enticing to look at.

– While I have problems overall with the narration for the movie, I will say that the mental fortitude test being played between the two male leads was something that constantly raised the stakes to the ever-changing scenery of the game, and truly evolved this into a serial thriller from a

– I loved the decision to cast a majority of this film in the Oregon countryside. Considering this takes place during the winter time, a frost-biting chill takes over the auditorium, and the forest’s infinite trees tell a story that a lot of the times the film can’t even fully grasp.

NEGATIVES

– There are no shortage of plot contrivances here. It would be easy to use the excuse of turning my brain off, but when I know how certain investigations stem, as well as how truly stupid these duo of thieves truly are, I’d have to be braindead to ignore the never-ending list of implausibility that plagues the believability.

– Brash editing that is never consistently paced with the progression of the film. It constantly feels like multiple people are editing this film together, and that’s a problem for pacing of particular scenes that deserve more exposition time, and some scenes that overstay their welcome whole.

– This feels every bit of the 105 minute runtime that is left at our feet. A major reason for this is that the film goes almost an entire hour between thrills to lose itself in an investigation that is only there to answer the questions that writer Brandon Boyce can’t creatively work into the one-on-one cat-and-mouse game being played between Tennant and Sheehan.

– There’s this awkward backstory that opens the film and occasionally peeks into focus during sporadic scenes throughout, and I felt overall that the juice just didn’t warrant the squeeze with this one. There’s no surprising reveal or elemental twist that ups the ante, and these few out of context moments felt like they were paying tribute to something harshly disjointed like last year’s ‘The Snowman’, although nowhere near as faulty.

– I have great difficulty feeling for characters who enjoy robbing people just because they’re rich snobs, and my overall feeling of rooting for Tennant’s serial killer never changed throughout. ‘Don’t Breathe’ was excellent with something like this, evolving the trio of thieves with a backstory that articulated their urgency to get out of town. For ‘Bad Samaritan’, that empathetic approach never materializes, and because of such we’re left with a game of bad versus worse that doesn’t remotely consider the judges at bay; the audience.

– Awful A.D.R effects that have me scratching my head. This is an R-rated movie with several scenes of adult language dialogue being exerted, so why the few instances of audible narration that override the lips of an actor mouthing a specific vulgarity for cover-up? If the effect itself isn’t a glaring problem, the volume of the inserted audio most certainly is, alienating itself from the consistency of a conversation between two characters that sounds like one is occasionally having their testicles ripped apart.

4/10

I Feel Pretty

Directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein

Starring – Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski

The Plot – a woman (Schumer) who struggles with feelings of deep insecurity and low self-esteem, that hold her back everyday, wakes from a brutal fall in an exercise class believing she is suddenly a supermodel. With this newfound confidence she is empowered to live her life fearlessly and flawlessly, but what will happen when she realizes her appearance never changed?

Rated PG-13 for sexual material involving brief nudity, and adult language

POSITIVES

– While the overall soundtrack feels a bit too topical for the particular scenes that they are deposited in, the film’s musical score from composer Michael Andrews surrounds us with a New Wave homage to 80’s John Hughes flicks. The soft listening tones are the first attempt at elevating this comedy into something more, and Andrews precision with the keys gives a gentle touch to a screenplay so vain.

– Whenever you get a comedy starring a comedian, you can bet that they will bring along their friends, and this film is no exception. Along the way, I spotted Nikki Glaser, Dave Attell, and plenty others that have played pivotal roles and blossoming friendships to Schumer’s rising stardom.

– A couple of noteworthy performances. Schumer actually gets a chance to develop some dramatic muscle here. Her empathetic range rises leaps and bounds above a script that is trying everything in its power to get you to hate her, but Amy proves that she can make you love just as much as she can make you laugh. In addition to Schumer, Williams steals the show as a bimbo-type executive that totally re-shaped the boundaries of Williams greatness. This is an Oscar nominated actress, so to see her commit to a character so opposite of her own personality, is only a shining example of her at her best. The vocal tones that she omitted for this role were so different from anything that I ever heard from her that I thought the film inserted some terribly awful A.D.R for her mouth to mimic.

– My favorite part of the film is definitely the romance between Schumer and Rory Scovel’s characters, and a lot of that centers around it feeling like the balancing act to so much superficiality that surrounds them. If only this magic had more time to materialize, then the importance to its meaning wouldn’t feel so forced during the third act.

NEGATIVES

– We all see the comparisons between this and 2001’s ‘Shallow Hal’, but the script outline feels almost like an unflattering form of plagiarizing. Scenes and progression mirror that of the predecessor, and while Hal isn’t a film that I would recommend to anyone for moral fiber, I can say that its heart beats twice as strong as Kohn’s diluted effort for the commentary it holds on the real world.

– The comedy misfires far too often. Considering most of the humor in the film deals with embarrassing Schumer’s character, I found myself feeling dirty or callous for even attempting the laugh towards it. Sometimes the right timing is accomplished, but often you forget that this film is a comedy first, and I blame that on the passing time between laughs that will have you checking your watch.

– Speaking of time, the endurance test of pacing in this film starts to show its hand by early on in the third act, when predictability feels evident. There are no fewer than three times during the final twenty minutes when this film could easily end, but the persistence in building to a memorable, self-conscious ending takes center stage above all else in making these 105 minutes feel like half of that.

– As a screenwriter, Kohn also feels inspired in elevating her comedy into a drama or romantic comedy level, similar to what Judd Apatow has perfected with films like ‘Trainwreck’ or ‘This is 40’. Where this fails is in the resistance in letting go of the bumbling humor escapades that do it no favors in harvesting inspiring moments to pull from. ‘I Feel Pretty’ could’ve easily been the female renaissance film of 2018, speaking levels to the kind of insecurities that all women face, but instead it only goes skin deep in its dive, sticking to the shallow waters of social standing in pursuing its merit.

– Much of the camera angles made me moan to the point that they lacked originality in their depiction. As I mentioned before, you get the sense that this is trying so desperately to be a rom-com, and the camera movements around our two love interests feel contrived and redundant from every 90’s film of the genre that you have ever seen. I found myself actually predicting how the camera was going to shift during certain scenes, creating what may be the best underground drinking game that will soon take over the world.

– That ending reeks. Even Schumer has been quoted in tabloids for how much the ending simply does not fit into this film, and I have to agree with the leading lady. For one, a cosmetics company whose whole campaign is dividing women, feels very contradictory to the film’s message that is hammered home with the subtlety of a sledgehammer driving through a brick wall. As well, the ideal that women need cosmetics in finding the inner beauty from within, gives me a feeling of nausea so deep within that I wanted to condemn this film from being seen by any of my female readers.

4/10

The Miracle Season

Directed By Sean McNamara

Starring – Erin Moriarty, Helen Hunt, William Hurt

The Plot – After the tragic death of star volleyball player Caroline “Line” Found (Danika Yarosh), a team of dispirited high school girls must band together under the guidance of their tough-love coach in hopes of winning the state championship.

Rated PG for some thematic elements

THE POSITIVES

– Both Hunt and Hurt outrun the hurdles of abysmal character exposition by granting us two strong performances in a film that needs that most of all. For Hunt, it’s clear that Caroline’s passing has opened her up to the relationship side of her team that was all business before, and for Hurt, we see a grieving father with the arduous task of picking up the pieces and finding the will to live happy again.

– The volleyball choreography here feels very in-tuned to the kind of sequencing and designs that the sport merits. Even if you aren’t a fan of the sport, you will appreciate the kind of chemistry that goes into building a team from the ground up that West High must now face without their star player.

– Much of the camera work starts off rudimentary with quick zooms and pan-outs, but then settles in to find its stroke. The later games in the film offer a panning shot from side-to-side that articulates the balance of power between two teams, and does so in a way that feels authentic to the actor’s having to depict plays for themselves in long takes, as opposed to quick edits that could make any of them look amazing without trying.

– Whether you find yourself invested in the characters or not, ‘The Miracle Season’ does bring with it a somber sense of heart-tugging dramatic sadness that will have you battling back tears a time or two. With more conviction to taking time, this film could’ve been remembered along the lines of sports biopics like ‘We Are Marshall’ and ‘Remember the Titans’ for making the most of the inevitable gut punch that you know is coming.

THE NEGATIVES

– Sport Biopics 101. This is a virtual checklist of formulaic cliches that has everything you’ve come to expect. Musical training montages? CHECK, A team working their way out of a losing streak? CHECK, The emergence of an overlooked player who would otherwise be riding the bench? CHECK. It’s all there, and its complacency is something that offers nothing of substance or originality to this particular story that should be inspiring.

– Speaking of uninspiring, the predictability factor here constantly keeps this film grounded. Other than the passing of Caroline from the trailers, I knew nothing about this real life team, but was still able to accurately predict where every single arc of the story was headed. The worst feeling with any film is that lack of overall sense of moving through the motions, and this film couldn’t feel more mundane because of it.

– Something that the music soundtrack does in the first half of the movie that I found interesting was that it only played pop songs from the year the story takes place (2010). This is a refreshingly faithful take, but unfortunately only lasts for half of the movie. The second half decides to throw in anything from the last few years of pop music that has been associated with the terms “Inspiring”, “Feminist”, or “Tries too hard” to manipulate audiences into thinking it’s watching something better than it actually is.

– How bad is the character exposition in the film? Well, the main character barely has parents, is reduced to a terribly undercooked romance that I couldn’t have cared less about, and doesn’t remotely standout as anything special from the rest of the group, besides being Caroline’s best friend. Even with the main character of the movie, we can’t help but feel the impact of longing for someone else. A bad sign indeed.

– Let’s face it, volleyball isn’t exactly the most dramatic sport to depict in film. It’s too quick in point decisions to stretch the tension, it’s too repetitive in movements to think the next play is going to be any different, and it continuously lacks the physical interaction that underlines the concepts of overcoming the odds.

– It doesn’t have much crossover appeal besides the limited audience that it caters to. There’s definitely the teenager and sports elements at hand here, but what for people who don’t enjoy either? Very little. This film sticks far too strong on the beaten path, and doesn’t expand its depth to the spiritual side that takes place outside of the courts. I’m not asking for religious circumference, but anything that tells me that volleyball might not be the only important thing in this town would be excellent.

– Atrocious Hallmark flashback dialogue. “I may be the surgeon, but you’re the healer out there” might be my single least favorite line of scripted dialogue this year. My only question is when you write something this meandering and emotionally vapid, do you get half off of Apple products because the stores feel bad for you?

4/10

Paul, Apostle of Christ

Directed by Andrew Hyatt

Starring – Jim Caviezel, James Faulkner, Joanne Whalley

The Plot – The story of two men, Luke (Caviezel), as a friend and physician, risks his life every time he ventures into the city of Rome to visit Paul (Faulkner), who is held captive in Nero’s darkest, bleakest prison cell. Before Paul’s death sentence can be enacted, Luke resolves to write another book, one that details the beginnings of “The Way” and the birth of what will come to be known as the church. But Nero is determined to rid Rome of Christians, and does not flinch from executing them in the grisliest ways possible. Bound in chains, Paul’s struggle is internal. He has survived so much; floggings, shipwreck, starvation, stoning, hunger and thirst, cold and exposure; yet as he waits for his appointment with death, he is haunted by the shadows of his past misdeeds. Alone in the dark, he wonders if he has been forgotten, and if he has the strength to finish well. Two men struggle against a determined emperor and the frailties of the human spirit in order to bequeath the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

Rated PG-13 for some violent content and disturbing images

THE POSITIVES

– Religious films continue the momentum of earning themselves a valuable budget to spend on luxurious backdrops and authentic wardrobe displays. With more persistent success at the box office, this genre of films will only continue making the immersion into these stories that much easier.

– At its core, this is a strong character piece for Paul, and should’ve been used just for that. Far too often, too much unrelated exposition takes away from us translating the map of the world that he depicts on his face. I felt that these rare occasions in getting close to the character certainly made it a synch in understanding why he views Christ as his spiritual and life awakening.

– Committed performances that never crack or break under the pressure of the dependency of this screenplay. Caviezel’s Luke is stoic, Andre Agius’s Stephen is calculating, but it’s in the work of Faulkner as the title character that defines what it means to get lost in a role. As far as protagonists go, he doesn’t come across as preachy, instead settling for the effects of an iron will to get across his sermon.

– Never manipulative, but plenty inspiring. There’s certainly a message of standing for your faith over persecution, in ‘Paul’, but it never feels insulting or contradictory to any audience watching it at home. Because of this, I have to appreciate films like this that separate themselves from the Kirk Cameron’s and ‘God’s Not Dead’s’ of the world.

THE NEGATIVES

– Inconsistent lighting palates. One of my favorite things to pay attention to in films that take place before the dawn of electricity is how the lighting scheme works in every scene, and much of the use of candles during the nighttime sequences here feels far too bright without much shadow work accompanying them. Natural lighting should always be the decision for these kind of movies.

– This is definitely a film that feels ravaged by its rating. It amazes me that many religious films still don’t understand or grasp how R-rated the bible was, and as a result, the requirement to use your imagination in this film constantly exceeds the rewards in rare visuals that we receive.

– For my money, the most entertaining and informative parts of the film seem to happen off screen. There are no shortage of flashback sequences, so it’s my opinion that this is a three hour film that is trying so desperately to come across at 100 minutes. In doing so, much of the understanding of the conflict between the Romans and Catholics feels lost in translation, leading to……..

– An overall weak dramatic pull. Because much of the film involves a tell-and-not-show routine, its reach for a third act impact before the closing credits is one that comes and goes without much emotional impact on us. If a film doesn’t move you, it’s a reflection that it never attained the success of luring you into its conflicts.

– How is Nero not a presence in this film? Considering so much of the screenplay revolves around his actions and feelings towards the Catholics, the decision to make him a shadow figure in the ivory tower is one that comes across as a missed opportunity in crafting an ideal antagonist to rival the overabundance of protagonists that adorn the film.

– So much of the second half of this film drowns on because of nothing of physicality to accompany its overflowing dialogue. This would usually be where a war scene goes, but because the material is so stripped of anything confrontational, we play the listening game in waiting for something rumbling that never comes.
4/10