American Animals

American Animals only came up on my radar because the company sent me a link. I almost didn’t watch it. I accidentally had free time because I didn’t feel like leaving the house to watch Incredible 2.

I didn’t know the cast, the story, or anything.

I just knew the shitty title. I haven’t been a big fan of movies American in the front. There are a ton. At this point it lacks any amount of originality. I am not saying that the title makes me hate the film while watching it, but it does make me annoyed. It makes me lose interest before I even start it, which is why I almost decided to skip this film.

And occasionally, I can forgive the film if the title matters.

Old Men
I cannot even confirm all four of these old men are American! Show me your papers!

This story mainly centers around two individuals, Warren Lipka (Evan Peters) and Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan). We are supposed to believe that these friends have are really different people. Warren is more outgoing and reckless. Spencer is reserved and good-natured. Once Spencer met Warren he got into more trouble, but whatever, they are just kids.

And now Spencer is at college, at Transylvania University, hoping to become an artist some day. And while on tour, he is taken with a crowd to the special rare books department, and he sees The Birds of America by John James Audubon, a large book full of very detailed paintings of, well, American birds. And it is incredibly rare and worth millions. So are other books in this tiny room in a library.

Once he mentions this to Warren, Warren wants to steal it. Why not? They just need to get a buyer ahead of time, and work on a plan. It isn’t a very security heavy area, no one would expect it, they could probably get away with it and get super rich. They have to overall bring in two others, Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas Allen (Blake Jenner) as their getaway driver. And then they can work on being infamous. Or at least infamous enough to get a movie made about them.

Also starring Ann Dowd as the rare book collections librarian and Udo Kier as mysterious man. Oh, and the real four thieves, narrating the story and telling their point of views as they recall the events.

Gotyasucker
We know they get caught because we know this story exists.

I loved American Animals. It was captivating, and despite knowing the eventual outcome, it was thrilling nonetheless. And of course, the title technically fit the film, but I can’t help they still chose it because they thought American sounded cool like the other movies.

A lot of the time having the real people involved in the picture means bad news. Did you see Act of Valor or The 15:17 to Paris? Both dreadful. But the real culprits of this act were not acting, they were just telling their story. They added a documentary element to this story, making it a sort of hybrid. Having them tell the story, disagree with each other, changing how the story played out was fun. Also adding in the elements of who can you trust from these various point of views was very well done and added a more ominous tone by the end.

Our actors who played the crew did a very good job, displaying appropriate amounts of angst and fear and young stupidity. I was definitely shocked and a bit afraid during the actual heist, heart pumping and on the edge of my seat.

American Animals took a real story, framed it in a unique way, and created suspense in a story where we already knew the outcome. Needless to say, this film surprised me in all the best ways. It makes since that it was directed by Bart Layton, who has only done documentaries in the past, most famously The Imposter, an amazing documentary.

4 out of 4.

Infinity Chamber

Infinity Chamber is a movie you have never heard about before, nor had I when I decided to watch it.

Just a movie, floating around on Netflix, when I wanted to find something potentially interesting and unheard of while cross stitching.

Indie science fiction movies, especially ones dealing with far reaching topics, have generally been good to me in the past. They can be a lot smarter than the average released film, and go into a lot of weird places. I wanted this one to be weird, so I hoped for the best.

Camera
Haircuts are unfortunately normal. Not. Weird. Enough.

Frank (Christopher Soren Kelly) wakes up and finds himself in a room. A prison. A chamber. It isn’t too small, but there are no windows and no notable doors either. He has a bed, but nothing else to keep him idle.

Oh, there is a big camera in the middle of the room and it talks to him. Its name is Howard (Jesse D. Arrow). He is the warden of this here cell, but it is his first time, so he cannot answer all of Frank’s questions. Questions like, how did he get here? Why is he here in the first place? When can he leave and can he talk to anyone else? Why does Howard know jack shit?

It turns out his cell has other amenities. like drinks and food can be made when requested by Howard. If he needs a toilet or wants to exercise, parts of his cell will open up to help him out. But other than that, he is alone.

Oh, an inexplicably, Frank also sometimes finds himself in a cafe. This cafe is run by a lady (Cassandra Clark), who doesn’t recognize him every time he appears. During every visit however, he is beat up and captured by agents, and hey look, back in the cell.

This is going to be a long sentence for Frank.

Coffee
The coffee has no hidden side effects. Not. Weird. Enough.

This film was a struggle to get through. I had to watch it over multiple days. Early on in the movie I kept passing out (with my wife quickly waking me up) because of how dreadfully slow it was going.

I am not entirely sure what I expected. Maybe just a nice social experiment movie with one person. Maybe something like Cube. Maybe something with some sort of thriller elements.

But nothing was intriguing. I fully understand what happened, or happened enough with reasonable amounts of speculation. I didn’t miss key elements. I did miss a reason to care, however.

I know it is a low budget indie film. But man, that robot sucked. Didn’t even sound scary, all powerful, or robotic really. Felt just like a dude. Twists that occurred seemed obvious. And holy fuck was it boring. Did I say that already?

1 out of 4.

Thoroughbreds

I tried to watch Thoroughbreds when it was still in theaters, but a lot of things got in my way. The screening was during the day. Then I got free tickets to the Alamo over spring break, but couldn’t fit it in with three other movies I was watching during that week. And after those two attempts, I knew I had to wait.

Critic friends gave me lackluster reasons to go out of my way as well.

But I still knew I had to see it. The cast was too potentially good. And I have loved plenty of films that others have not.

Entry
Now watch as I refuse to type the title, as it gives me too many spelling anxieties.

Amanda (Olivia Cooke) and Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) are not really friends. They are studying together, they are rich, but they have very different interests. They used to be friends, but things change over time. So why is Lily tutoring Amanda? To rekindle their friendship? To be nice?

No, Amanada’s mom paid Lily to do it. But they eventually found things to talk about, like Amanda’s past with potential animal abuse and the fact that Amanda is a sociopath. Fake emotions, no heart, what have you.

It turns out that Lily has the need of someone with her talents. She is fine with her mom, but her step dad (Paul Sparks) is a bit stranger. He isn’t abusive to her, but he does make her feel uncomfortable. It also turns out that he is going to put her in a boarding school that isn’t fun and kick her out. Things have got to change.

They have got to kill him.

Also starring Anton Yelchin, Francie Swift, and Kaili Vernoff.

Couch
There is so much distance between them. Physically, and emotionally.

Thoroughbreds was about two leads who were particularly unlikable. After all, one was a sociopath whose identity in this film was entirely based upon her relationship with the other. And the other is some sort of epitome of first world problems. Some of them are more relevant, but a lot of them just stem from being incredibly rich and lonely.

This is potentially the final new film that will be released with Yelchin in it. I have no idea, because I didn’t know he was in the film until I finally saw it. It wasn’t his best work and he had a small role, so it is going to be a forgettable one if it ends up being his final film.

When it comes to acting, since our main characters are already so emotionless, there isn’t a lot going on there. Cooke is really type casted into these quirky and darker roles, so it isn’t something we haven’t seen before. Taylor-Joy has certainly been better in her other recent genre roles of Split and The Witch.

Overall, this is a film that could have had a lot of potential, but really felt like it dragged due to the longer takes of scenes and build up of suspense. I did enjoy the ending though, and can’t find too many other faults in the film itself.

2 out of 4.

The Misandrists

I admit, I was really intrigued when I heard about the film The Misandrists.

Of course the title drew me in, it is a type of film that could go a lot of ways. What story does it want to tell? It is a heavily propagandized documentary? Is it full of lies?

Well, I immediately read the plot description and found myself now more confused than ever. It really made me read it a few times just to make sure I was understanding it correctly. It was clearly going to be some sort of satire film, and how good or bad that goes really depends on who is in charge of it.

Well, The Misandrists is directed (and written) by someone named Bruce La Bruce, a man (a bad sign), but a notably gay man. Could still be a bad sign. His film work, that I also have never seen, apparently have lots of frequent gay male sex in them, partly for shock, and partly for the story. And he is potentially exploitative when it comes to these tales.

Oh okay, fine. Based on the description, and his history, maybe this is the perfect man for a movie like this?

Woman
“Perfect man? No such thing!” – These misandrists, probably.

Set in Germany, at some time period before cell phones I assume, sits a small secluded large building. This building is not a school, but a training ground for the Female Liberation Army. This group made entirely of women want to grow strong, powerful, and weaponized and eventually band together to take down the patriarchy in Germany.

It is run by a few “sisters” (you know, like nuns), and Big Mother (Susanne Sachße). The younger girls there are taking classes like a normal school, on Herstory and physical education and math, while also exploring themselves sexually to be free radical women. Most of them came from troubled backgrounds or abuse, and had to leave home at early ages for one reason or another.

While out with her girlfriend, Isolde (Kita Updike) finds a man who is hurt and on the run from authority. She wants to bring him back to their home, to hide in the basement and get better. She doesn’t like men, but can appreciate someone who is anti-authority, which he clearly is. Despite pleading, they do bring him back to hide and heal while still going about their normal duties.

This is a pretty big secret to hide, especially with some of the type of ladies that are in the home. But it turns out that is just the start of the secrets between this small group of ladies.

Also starring Viva Ruiz, Kembra Pfahler, Caprice Crawford, Grete Gehrke, Victoire Laly, Olivia Kundisch, Lina Bembe, and Til Schindler.

Man
The guy looks like he starred in War Horse.

Wow.

I really can’t get into too much detail down here, (partially because I do not want to), but also because there is just so much to talk about that I would just ramble and sound incoherent.

I definitely left this film not enjoying it in the slightest. It does feel like a vehicle to just create some softcore pornography. There is plenty of sex scenes in it, and maybe the longest pillow fight I have seen in a movie. Once the secrets start unraveling, it goes from dull to just really bad. The ending is extremely strange and jarring, without a lot of sensical resolution.

And yes. There is a nice fun scene of a penis being cut open. I assume it was surgery to turn the genitals into a vagina, it really wasn’t specifically clear, but it definitely was REAL. The camera change to a surgical video, and it was gross and so god damn unnecessary.

My stomach hurts just typing this out and remembering it.

The plot is bad, the graphic-ness is disturbing, and this film will only appeal to extremely small niche group of folks. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to scrub this movie out of my memory anytime soon, as it will likely appear in my worst of the year list.

0 out of 4.

The 15:17 To Paris

I will admit, when I first saw that this movie was coming out, I knew it had to be one of the early favorites for worst movie of 2018. A movie about a real event, starring some of the real people? What could go wrong?!

The 15:17 To Paris looked like utter shit, and as you can already see, yes, it was utter shit.

At this point, I assume Clint Eastwood is only alive because of directing. He is known for doing things quickly and under budget, despite issues, and it is really showing. Look at recent movies: American Sniper, Trouble With The Curve, Sully, Jersey Boys. He has some real event movies, and they aren’t spectacular. He had a known amazing musical and he botched it. And The Trouble With the Curve? Well, you probably forgot it existed.

The only real worthy note about some of his recent movies has been the acting in it. But it is clear that it is probably more so the good actors continuing to act good, and not Eastwood bringing it out of them. So now we have him directing people who have NO training at acting and really watch it blow up in his face.

Group
Maybe not the best choice of words in a movie about a terrorist attack.

In 2015, on a train from Amsterdam to Paris, a terrorist attack occurred. A guy came out of the bathroom with guns ready to fire, and tons of ammunition. Immediately, he struggled against people waiting to use the bathroom, but once shots were fired, people began to run and much panic ran throughout the train.

But three Americans in a cart over decided that running was not in their blood. Spencer Stone (Spencer Stone), Anthony Sadler (Anthony Sadler), and Alek Skarlatos (Alek Skarlatos) in various amounts fought back against the attacker, including rushing at him despite being fired against.

The three and another were able to get rid of his weapons and subdue him, and keep him down, until they stopped at the next station where authorities and doctors were able to take over. They were international heroes, helping prevent a much greater tragedy.

But how did they get to that point and why are they even friends? Lets have a movie about that.

Also starring Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer, and the young versions of our heroes played by William Jennings, Bryce Gheisar, and Paul-Mikél Williams.

Run
Bullrush is not the feat it used to be.

Many years ago, Act of Valor came out and I completely hated it. It was a big PR stunt, with actual seals instead of actors. By bringing in authenticity to the craft, they lost having a competent movie. But at least with Act of Valor there was a story. At least there was an attempt to be entertaining and to fill some people with wonder. After all, if it is propaganda, there needs to be a hook.

For The 15:17 to Paris, it seems like it is actually not a movie, but an experiment, to see how much bullshit a person can take before they stop watching a movie. Unfortunately, I can take a huge bag of it, so I saw the whole thing, but I can’t imagine why. This 94 minute movie should have been about 14 minutes long.

We get to have plot of the young versions causing problems in school, becoming friends, and of course, their moms arguing against pills for ADD. Okay. Cool. Go strong with your anti-science doctrine in the first few minutes.

After that we have our characters played by themselves, but pretending to be high school students trying to figure out future careers. Then of course doing these jobs and goign through training and doing things in Afghanistan. Just a whole lot of pointlessness, until we get to the ending. You know, when they are finally ready to go backpacking and train riding throughout Europe!

And guess what. We now get to see the three pretend to relive these moments. You know, being in Italy, Germany, and other places, pretending to be tourists who have been there for the first time, just doing normal things. It is so incredibly uncomfortable and pointless.

None of these things matter at all for the actual train ride. There aren’t clever points where “Oh, we saw them talk to that Californian girl and get Gelato with her because she taught them to disarm a weapon!” Nope. Just because they did it in real life, I guess.

Good news. These guys are heroes. Bad news, everything and everyone about this movie. Goddamn it Clint Eastwood.

0 out of 4.

First Reformed

Now that I have met Ethan Hawke in real life, he is of course my favorite actor. Because the only other real celebrities I have met (at the time of writing this) have been Rob Reiner (director mostly), Justin Long, and Sean Astin. Astin comes close, but what has he done for me lately? Oh yeah, Moms’ Night Out.

Back to Hawke. Sure at some point his directed movie Blaze comes out, but he hasn’t had a very well acted film for a bit. So any thing where he returns to his form is going to be great.

I missed the first screening of First Reformed because it was in the middle of the day, which didn’t feel like a problem. But everyone else mentioned how great this film was, meaning I needed to give it a shot and hope to be wowed.

Purple
Having a purple sky is pretty wow-derful.

The First Reformed church is the oldest still standing religious structure that is still in use. In the year 2017 it is going to celebrate its 250th year of use! A pretty significant number. It is of course a rather small church, one main room, a balcony area for the organ.

It doesn’t have too many members at this point, being in a small community, by Father Toller (Ethan Hawke) still has his weekly session. He keeps the place clean, he gives tours when necessary, and he tries to be an active part of his community. When the community doesn’t need him, he goes on a drive to the local Mega Church to help out over there.

One day, Mary (Amanda Seyfried), a younger member asks to speak with him. It turns out she is pregnant, and her husband, Michael (Philip Ettinger), is having doubts on the baby. He recently was also arrested from being at an environmental protest and has been mopey lately.

Basically, Michael thinks it is completely irresponsible to bring a child into this world, knowing how bad it is and bad it will get without any notable changes over the last decade. Could he be a good person and let that happen? Toller begins to meet with the family and talk to them, giving him a bit more purpose in his life.

And once events begin unraveling that Toller is not well equipped to handle. He is having a crisis of conscious and of faith, while being put in the spotlight for just those things.

Also starring Cedric the Entertainer, Victoria Hill, and Michael Gaston.

Distraught
Really, it is the feng shui that is causing all of these issues.

Strangely enough, this film is not in wide screen. It is presented in a square format. I am sure someone could explain why for good reasons, and I cannot be that eloquent at this point. I will just note that it is notable and it does add something to the film.

Hawke is absolutely amazing in this role, and a lot more subtle about it than most of his other acting performances. It is definitely relatable to his work in the Before Trilogy, but less romantic and more depressing.

The story itself is quite slow, and yet still full of shocks and surprises. Maybe a third to halfway through the film will the viewer realize the potential conclusion of the film, adding a bit of nervousness to the proceedings. The ending is quite a spectacle and definitely controversial. I can hardly believe it, and yet at the same time, it really just makes sense.

First Reformed offers us our first real look at a Best Acting nominee this year which means awards season is definitely upon us.

3 out of 4.

Hotel Artemis

Hotel Artemis started advertising not that long ago and then went really hard at it. I avoided watching any trailers, but it did have a ton of posters, character spotlights, and general social media campaign.

I definitely thought and just assumed it was the same hotel in John Wick: Chapter 2, because again, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to it.

I also went in expecting a shoot out, broken rules, high famous people death count, and so on.

Really, the only reason I was interested in the movie was due to the people acting in it.

Blooming
Including this formerly elusive fucker who is trying to be in everything the last year.

Hotel Artemis is less a hotel and more a hospital. It is in a penthouse of a large building in Los Angeles and it is a secret organization for criminals. After all, every hospital out there is for the good guys and regular guys, so why not a place for criminals. You cannot just be bad and get in, you have to join their club and pay your membership dues.

Basically, as long as there is an empty room and you are a member, you will have a place to go and get patched up without alerting the authorities. And this film starts with Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and his brother (Brian Tyree Henry) hurt after a robbery gone wrong making it over to the facilities. It is the future and LA is having big riot problems over clean water, so everyone is on edge.

Thankfully, they get patched up by the Nurse (Jodie Foster) just swell, and just have to wait for a new liver to be created for his brother. They find out that the current patrons of the hotel are not all there by coincidence, and that greater and more deadly stakes are afoot at this place they thought was safe.

Also starring Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Charlie Day, Jeff Goldbloom, Jenny Slate, Kenneth Choi, and Zachary Quinto.

Big Dog Little Dog
Finally, some hired help who can punch and sew.

Hotel Artemis is a film that has some cool and interesting ideas, but never really reaches its goals.

The plot is a bit shit. We have good reasons for future riots, those are believable, but the backstory for the Nurse takes too long to play out despite being one of our major points. The plot line with Boutella was average, and Brown’s was more fleshed out, but still didn’t feel really worth it. Tons of hype around Goldbloom, but in the end it also lacked a huge amount of oomph in the trunk.

It also didn’t have as much action as promised. Sure, we do get a few creative deaths and really well choreographed and decorated rooms, but the action itself is weak. Near the end it looked like there would be two different hallway scenes. One of them was interesting despite the many camera cuts, the other fell completely flat and denied the viewers of a great brawl aspect.

And yet, there are still elements to praise. For example, Foster was completely into this character. She had the quirks, the voice, everything felt unique. Foster transformed herself for this role and really, I couldn’t tell Foster was behind it at all. Probably her best role in over a decade.

Almost all the actors seemed to be acting in ways that were very uncommon for them. Brown doesn’t really play shooting criminal badasses, Day is generally spastic, but this time he was wormy and theoretically “cool” with a different voice, Quinto played a character who was definitely slow witted, and Slate wasn’t completely annoying.

The cast of characters is the reason to watch this movie, but it will unfortunately leave you just watching it once. Too many plot points that don’t go too many places will leave the story forgettable and the idea a wonderful dream.

2 out of 4.

I Kill Giants

I haven’t met a giant in my life yet, but I would be sad if I had to meet it then immediately kill it. They seem rare, and I can’t imagine they are all inherently evil.

But I Kill Giants is a film that definitely has a specific message and propoganda attached to it. Who kills these giants? An elf? A regular human? Is it maybe a collective “I” which doesn’t really makes sense as a type it?

Needless to say, I better see a damn giant in this movie. Or if not a living breathing angry giant, at least a dead one.

Spy
Yes, be on the look out for those Zombie Giants. They are the worst.

Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) is not considered to be one of the cool girls at school. She is incredibly nerdy, including being a fan of dungeons and dragons. Besides believing these dragon forces to be real, she also is quite certain that giants are real.

Not just above average people or Sasquatches. But large forces of nature meant to cause harm. Most people don’t open their eyes enough to embrace these threats, and just blame them on tornadoes, earthquakes, or various storms. But they are there. And there are worse giants! There are titans, even bigger and meaner, and yes like the ones from Greek Mythology.

Barbara spends most of her time in her town, setting traps and bait out to track giant movement. She has saved her town a few times and given up grades and a social life to do so. But a new girl in town, Sophia (Sydney Wade), from Great Britain befriends her and helps her on her quest, despite all of the doubt.

While this goes on, a new guidance counselor at the school (Zoe Saldana) is set out to make sure she can actually help Barbara instead of just discarding her as crazy.

Also starring Imogen Poots, Rory Jackson, and Jennifer Ehle.

Hammer
With a weapon like that, who’s crazy now?!

I Kill Giants is the type of film that feels like when it was written, it was extremely creative and original and a lot of people would have loved its ambition. But then A Monster Calls happened. It happened at the end of 2016, and it is extremely similar. It deal with grief, and large fantasy creatures to help deal with that grief. It involves kids, and parents, and bad things.

I feel bad for I Kill Giants, because I think I would have liked it more if I didn’t already love A Monster Calls. I am not saying there isn’t room in this very specific genre for more films. It is just it wasn’t different enough for me to love it as much as A Monster Calls.

We have a different gendered main character, who does an amazing job (You go Wolfe!). Some different fantasy lore, but overall, the motives behind the fantasy are almost exactly the same.

In other good notes, Poots does a great job as older sister trying to hold everything together, despite limited screen time, and this is possibly the best Saldana has ever acted.

In the end, if you liked A Monster Calls, you will probably like this one as well. If you haven’t seen it, then just think of this as a girl version of A Monster Calls and make a decision to watch at least one of them before you died old and cranky.

3 out of 4.

Crown Heights

If I fail at a goal, I definitely don’t make it very vocal and let everyone know. Unless it comes to movie watching. I have introductions for a reason, after all.

Just like I want to watch all the Oscar nominees before the Oscars air, I hope to watch the Spirit awards as well, for indie films. And one of the films nominated was Crown Heights, which I clearly failed to do before that March date.

It was only nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but the real issue is that I had access to it and could have done it by the date, I just forgot about it while I was chasing other bigger films to watch. I’m sorry! But look, I made some amends.

Early
Some amends are better than no amends at all, right?

In the 1970s, Colin Warner (Lakeith Stanfield) was living in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn. He was young, he was free, he was trying to make his impact on the world. Unfortunately when he was 18 (and young and free) he found himself behind bars. He was being charged with the murder of a 16 year old kid, one he did not knew, and claimed his innocence.

He wasn’t given a bail until they found out the details of the case, and then he was charged with murder. He didn’t have money, so he was given a public defender. They also actually found a different guy, who did kill him, and charged them together in the same trial with the same defendants.

And guess what. They both were sentenced to jail at the same time for the murder, despite arguments about Warner never being involved.

Unfortunately for Warner, he would spend then ext 21 years of his life in jail for a murder he did not commit. He could not get parole, as he refused to say he was sorry for a crime he didn’t do. With changing politicians, it became harder and harder to hold on to hope. But thankfully, Warner had a friend in KC (Nnamdi Asomugha) who never gave up for him, and made it his personal life goal to eventually free his friend.

Also starring Marsha Stephanie Blake, Adriane Lenox, and Luke Forbes.

Late
Once he gets free, he better get all of the amends.

Crown Heights is of course a true story of a really fucked up situation. It is more fucked up when you realize that this probably happens a decent amount of time. There are estimated to be over 100,000 people currently in prison for crimes they are not guilty of, which is a scary and frightening thought. You can live your whole life swell, never doing anything wrong, and then get arrested and go to jail for a long time if you don’t have a good defense.

And despite the law saying everyone gets a lawyer, it is not going to be great, because that lawyer probably has dozens of current clients and is focusing on plea deals over trial things.

The true story is an amazing tale of perseverance and standing up to injustices. But for whatever reason, in this iteration, it just doesn’t translate well onto the screen. Stanfield and Asomugha act great as our two leads. They have the appropriate amount of passion and really delve into those roles. It just feels like a drag to get through the story.

I did like how it interlaced the time with the change of the political landscape. Politicians arguing to be tougher on crime, longer sentences, three strikes and all that, creating more hurdles for our hero to get through before he can find himself a free man.

2 out of 4.

Stronger

A couple years ago I saw Patriots Day, against my better judgement, and it felt wrong.

It was #TooSoon, the movie. It felt like it wanted to be a documentary, but also to use a lot of famous actors. It would have been amazing as a documentary, as the footage and all of that exists. Instead, we had Marky Mark running around Boston, making those actual areas relive the moments, including when the final guy was caught in the boat, which seemed to be filmed on location.

That is uncomfrotable.

And now we have our second movie about the Boston Marathon bombings, which I clearly skipped for awhile for similar reasons. Am I ready for a story like this one? Stronger is clearly being hailed as a real story of a survivor, and will end with me most likely crying in happiness.

Kiss
Does it end with a happy kiss and terrorism finally defeated?

Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a free spirited Boston man, who has an energetic family, loves his Boston teams, and loves to joke around and have fun. So a stereotypical Boston man. He is also in love with Erin (Tatiana Maslany), an on again off again relationship. Right now it is off, so to win her back, he helped her raise money for his Boston Marathon run, and promised to be there at the finish line!

And he was there. Right in the blast of the bombs going off before Erin made it to the end.

This left Jeff very damaged, but he was saved by some onlookers, taken to the hospitals, who helped amputate his legs so that he could survive. But he had no legs. And now the city of Boston is looking to him as a symbol of their ability to grow from this tragedy. He has promised to walk again, and wants to be in the spotlight, he thinks. But the pressures put on him by the community drive him into relapse after relapse, feeling like a worthless potato. His mom (Miranda Richardson) is trying to help him, but it is doing the opposite.

Can he be Stronger, not just for himself, but for an entire city?

Also starring the following people, mostly as his family: Richard Lane Jr., Nate Richman, Lenny Clarke, Patty O’Neil, Clancy Brown, Kate Fitzgerald, and Danny McCarthy.

Boston
One day you wake up, no legs, and being used by the Bruins.

I went in expecting to hate this film, and sure enough, it surprised me. I expected a typical feel good story of someone struggling to eventually get through PT and start walking on false legs. I expected the long anguish scenes of surgeries, of his girlfriend crying by his bed, and all of that. But it is different. This one feels real.

Having the main character want to get better (obviously), but hated the spotlight and hated the pressures on him. His family was overbearing, random citizens walking up to him on the street making him out to be a martyr (which he obviously didn’t ask for or want) felt heartbreaking. This guy had a lot of eyes on him, when he never felt special. He also was feeling survivor’s remorse over the others who died because they weren’t saved as quickly as him.

This whole thing is a lot more about PTSD than some overcoming great challenges story, which makes it a lot more powerful. Sure, he eventually did overcome them, but it focuses more on the challenges you don’t expect someone to overcome.

And of course, the main reason to watch this – Gyllenhaal himself. A powerful actor, especially at transforming into a character. His voice and appearance was a bit funny, reminding me of his Bubble Boy self, but it definitely felt like a man who had lost his legs. Great, fantastic performance, to a much better than expected film.

3 out of 4.

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