The Gift (2015) – The preview for this grabbed my attention and I had very high hopes for it. In many ways it lived up to my expectations. There’s plenty of suspense, a few jumps, an intriguing mystery. The outcome/truth behind the mystery leaves a bit to be desired since the build-up to it is so captivating and has so much potential, but the performances are good, and I left the auditorium impressed by Joel Edgerton as a director.
The Longest Week (2014) – I ran across this film on Netflix and was intrigued by it for a few reasons: 1) It has a pretty decent cast; 2) I’d never heard of it before; and 3) When I looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes, I saw that it was almost universally disliked, with only a 22% audience approval rating and a “rotten” 11% critic rating. It couldn’t possibly be that bad, could it? Would it be yet another disappointing turn in the filmography of Jason Bateman, for whom I have a nostalgic love based on his involvement in Arrested Development? (Note: I watched this prior to The Gift, which was not a disappointment.) Bateman stars as Conrad Valmont, an insufferable man-child who has been suddenly evicted from the plush life he had previously been living at his parents’ hotel. Post-eviction, he meets a beautiful girl named Beatrice on the subway, but soon finds out that she’s dating his best friend. Conrad isn’t the only insufferable character in this film. They’re all very wealthy and very pretentious. There are a few redeeming qualities to the film, though. The cinematography is nice. Olivia Wilde’s hair/make-up/wardrobe are enviable. Bateman and Billy Crudup have an interesting-to-watch, highly competitive friendship. The film kept me interested, despite how annoyed I felt by the characters.
Mud (2012) – I remember wanting to see this film when I first heard about it years ago, but I never got around to it when it was in theaters. I ended up finally watching it this month with my dad, who saw that it was available on Amazon Prime and thought I might be interested in it. It lived up to my expectations, as a fan of one of director Jeff Nichols’ other films, Take Shelter. (These are the only two of his films I’ve seen, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for more in the future since I was impressed by them both.) The performances are great, and the story is intriguing. It’s a quiet, mysterious tale — part coming-of-age story, and part helping-a-fugitive drama.
The Reunion (2011) – With a little less cliche action and fewer attempts at humor, this could have been a really interesting film. Four siblings — one of whom is meeting his family for the first time, the other three of whom practically despise each other — are forced to work together in the wake of their father’s death in order to secure their inheritance. Their job is to track down a man who has violated his parole, and the journey takes them across the border to Mexico. Lots of potential for classic-inspired crime drama in that set-up, if things had been taken a bit more seriously. As it exists, the film is a decent popcorn flick. I would’ve liked to see Amy Smart’s character be more involved in the manhunt.
Ricki and the Flash (2015) – Between this film and Young Adult, I’m warming up to Diablo Cody. Ricki would be predictable even if the trailer hadn’t given away the fact that the title character happily reunites with her family for her son’s wedding at the end of the film, but it’s a nice watch. Meryl Streep is great (what’s new?) in the somewhat contradictory character of Ricki — a rocker and a rebel, who left her children behind and lives an unconventional lifestyle… but also a Republican-voting woman who fancies herself a patriot. It’s interesting to see Streep act alongside her real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer, and the music is fun. Not a perfect film, but it’s a watch worthy of the $4 I paid for a matinee ticket, so I can’t complain!