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Rating History

The Founder
The Founder (2017)
4 hours ago via Flixster
½

In The Founder, Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc favors the saying, "fortune favors the bold," but the question that comes to mind as the The Founder reaches its denouement and shows us not just what Kroc became in the professional world, but who he became as a person is just how bold was this guy? As it turns out, quite. There were risks involved in his journey that were never guaranteed to pay off and he arguably had a vision no one else did-or at least the balls no one else had to risk it all. In the end, fortune obviously favors Ray Kroc, but at what expense to his humanity and decency? Some may say such things don't matter when you're worth $500 million, but in those final moments of The Founder where Kroc rehearses lines for a speech he stole from old motivational records when his wife, who he also stole, walks into the room and he catches her eye that there is a hint of self-awareness; of knowing that there was a price for all that he now looked down upon. Keaton, in all his charming and endearing glory, snaps his face out of the thought that dazed him only for a moment as if to say such was a price he'd gladly pay again and again. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence he tells himself-not talent, not education-persistence. It is in this train of thought, this idea that Kroc is never complacent or content with his life that confounds though as the movie that now tells his life story tends to air on the side of being exactly that-content. Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks) The Founder is a perfectly acceptable slice of cinema as it is obviously well-crafted, hits all the right notes, and features a handful of appealing performances with Keaton being a whirlwind of as much sly charm as he can possibly muster-carrying this thing across the finish line with ease. It's not that there is anything particularly bad about the film, but there isn't anything that is rather exceptional either. Instead, The Founder more or less delivers what is expected of a biopic these days with only slight indications that there was a deeper, more cutting ambition to the project that maybe took a backseat to safety. There have been many a comparisons between The Social Network and this film with its protagonists being ruthless men who take ideas from smaller thinking men and turn them into multi-billion dollar businesses, but where David Fincher's film had a specific tone and a certain state of mind that was in place from the get-go, The Founder never feels as personal or alluring. It, ironically, never feels bold enough to transcend its genre lines.

read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com

xXx: Return of Xander Cage
1 day ago via Flixster

It is with great pleasure that I report xXx: Return of Xander Cage is as dumb and ridiculous as it should be. First and foremost I guess it is important to state that there was no need for this third outing in the xXx series, but as with so many franchises these days we get a lot of what we didn't think we needed, but that they're going to give to us anyways. It makes sense given the whole "brand recognition" line of thinking within the studio system at the moment, but while many of the fruits of this line of thinking yield final products as pointless and joyless as expected given their inherently unwarranted status it is nice that every once in a while such thinking yields something as fun and self-aware as xXx: Return of Xander Cage. It has been fifteen years since Vin Diesel took on the mantle of a James Bond figure via the X-Games in what was no doubt intended to be a spiritual successor of sorts to the original The Fast and the Furious as Diesel re-teamed with director Rob Cohen for xXx the year after The Fast and the Furious became a surprise smash. Like he did initially with the Fast franchise, Diesel opted not to return for the xXx sequel in 2005, State of the Union, which picked up Ice Cube as Darius Stone to fill Diesel's Xander Cage's spot in the xXx program with it being reported Cage died in Bora Bora a few years after the events of the original film. And now, as he did with Fast in 2009, Diesel has returned to a franchise he started and then abandoned after efforts outside such franchises haven't worked out as well as the actor/producer/social media champion likely hoped they would. It's hard to blame the guy as he approaches the age of fifty this summer and undoubtedly understands he won't be able to make such movies (or such money) for much longer. The persona Diesel pulled off as Cage at thirty-five already feels somewhat strained here-especially in scenes engineered to make Diesel look like the baddest dude on the planet-but director D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye) and his editors keep things moving along at such a quick pace and with so much energy it's difficult to get caught up on any one detail. It also doesn't hurt that F. Scott Frazier's (The Numbers Station) screenplay layers in multiple team members to take some of the pressure off Diesel carrying this entire thing on his aging shoulders while simultaneously becoming another casualty of the Avengers effect where it's now more lucrative and enticing to have a team of xXx-er's rather than a sole ambassador of bad ass.

read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com

Split
Split (2017)
1 day ago via Flixster
½

It's hard to remember, but there was a time when a new M. Night Shyamalan film was an event in and of itself. In 2002, at the ripe old age of thirty-two, there might have been no more hotly anticipated film of the year than the director's fifth film, Signs, but what was only his third feature since defining himself as the auteur he seemed destined to be. Fifteen years later and we are in a very different time and space. After the success of Signs (over $400 million globally on a $72 million budget) the studio system continued to only throw more and more money at the writer/director and increasingly his films became examples of trying too hard to do what his first few features had seemingly done with such ease. After 2008's utterly confounding The Happening it seemed Shyamalan might have given up completely as he then resorted to being a director for hire on projects like The Last Airbender and After Earth, but even in these endeavors he experienced some of the more scathing reviews and certainly some of the worst box office returns of his career. Where was the director to go? What was there to do next that might reinvigorate his career? Did this once glorious storyteller that TIME magazine so famously labeled "The Next Spielberg" even care to continue to put forth effort and/or art into the world or was he done? In one way or another it feels like we haven't had the real Shyamalan with us for some time. That the person he was in his early thirties had been lost to the grueling system and there was no certainty as to whether he'd ever come back. In truth, Shyamalan hasn't taken a break longer than three years in between films since 1998 film Wide Awake and those three years came in between Airbender and After Earth. It was only two years after the nepotism on a spaceship tale that was Will Smith's After Earth that we caught a glimpse of who we thought Shyamalan was and might become again. I didn't write about The Visit, Shyamalan's 2015 feature that experimented with the found footage approach, but it was a deliciously pulpy little thriller that not only provided a signature Shyamalan twist that worked with the rest of the narrative, but melded the humor, the uncertainty, and the tension of the situation in ways that felt organic-as if the marriage of story and image were flowing out of the director like they hadn't in some time and this upward trend in quality only continues with Split. Like The Visit, Split is set in a single location and relays a rather simple story in both interesting and horrific ways. It is a portrait of a character and in being that it explores a subject with multiple personalities it might be something of a twisted self-portrait from a director who was labeled as one thing, attempted to remain that thing until he was told he wasn't good at that thing anymore and then tried something else only to fail thus forcing him to re-invent himself once more.

read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com

Silence
Silence (2017)
1 day ago via Flixster

Silence is director Martin Scorsese's twenty-fourth narrative feature and one the auteur has been longing to make for quite some time. With that, Silence is a nearly three-hour epic that feels as if it has so much on its mind while at the same time not exactly conjuring much thought about anything other than what is physically presented. This is somewhat troubling considering Silence is a movie wholly about spirituality and the fact it isn't so much the traditions and exteriors of a religion or set of beliefs that matter, but whether the individual practices what their faith teaches daily while realizing how best to do so when that faith is inevitably tested. There is clearly a lot going on in Silence and much Scorsese seems to want to discuss, but the final product we've been delivered is so subtle about its deeper meanings and feelings around the people and subjects it is taking on that the viewer really has to reach into the depths of their attention to pull something substantial from the experience. One can counterpoint with the fact that Scorsese simply isn't spoon feeding viewers what he wants them to think and how he hopes they perceive his ponderings, but rather that he gives the facts of these "based on true life" events with limited shades of interpretation to allow the audience to have their own. This is fair. We have so many churches and/or places of worship these days due to the fact so many couldn't let their interpretations settle into an already established denomination, but this isn't the same kinds of conflicts of faith our characters in Silence struggle to comprehend. More, this a film about the thought process, the heart of the teachings Christianity and other religions preach, and how these intangible things define who we are as individuals and the role they play in determining the tone of humanity. There are no concrete definitions, no absolutes, no black or white, but instead Scorsese and co-writer Jay Cocks (Gangs of New York) have adapted Shsaku End's 1966 novel into a meditative film that has the odd distinction of both being completely about what lies beneath the surface yet often times feeling only surface level as far as impact and effectiveness are concerned. There is no denying that the film has layers upon layers from which numerous conversations can be elicited while featuring gorgeous photography, a couple of committed and rather brilliant performances, as well as some genuinely heart-wrenching moments that, depending on beliefs prior to seeing the film, will either reaffirm your faith or cast greater doubt than even before. For such factors alone, Silence is a staggering piece of work that should be commended, but on a basic level of raw emotional response the film didn't leave the lasting impression or transcendent experience great sermons hope to accomplish.

read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com

Elle
Elle (2016)
4 days ago via Flixster

Director Paul Verhoeven will be seventy nine years old this summer, but if his latest film is any indication it seems the filmmaker has no intentions of letting age force him to be more precious. Of course, the danger in this-to prove you're just as daring or drawn to scandal as you always were-is going overboard in an attempt to defy. Going overboard in ways that can take actions or material from being seen as risky and/or bold to that of pure desperation. With nearly eight decades behind him on this planet one could certainly surmise that Verhoeven has crafted a French thriller concerning rape, betrayal, mystery, and lies upon lies for no other reason than to prove he can still be as shockingly captivating as ever, but such motivation never seems to be the case with Elle. Rather, Verhoeven is clearly only hoping to entertain as much as he provokes. It may seem odd to use the word "entertain" when describing a film that opens with an older woman (Isabelle Huppert will be sixty four this year) being sexually assaulted, but strangely enough Verhoeven opens the film with this shocking act so that the audience isn't left waiting for what has been sold as the crux of the film. Instead, we are dropped into the middle of the assault and then left to discover how there isn't necessarily a right way in which women or anyone who experiences such a trauma are expected to respond. In most instances it would seem the victim of as violent and unforgiving an act as Verhoeven documents and David Birke's screenplay describes would immediately notify the authorities and stay with a close friend or relative in light of being violated in a space they once felt safe, but none of this accounts for how Huppert's Michle Leblanc reacts. And Verhoeven never takes the stance that his protagonists' choices are weird or wrong in any way, but more that they are interesting in the vein of bringing up more layers of this individual's story thus making the trials and tribulations of Ms. Leblanc all the more compelling and completely engrossing. It's not often with large-scale dramas or potentially cheap thrillers that the director trusts their audience enough to draw their own ideas or perceptions of the acts taking place, but just as there is no precedent for how Leblanc should react to her singular situation Verhoeven never sets a precedent for how he expects us to respond; simply laying out the facts of the story and forcing us to take them in in whatever horrific, alluring, frightening, or seductive way we ultimately do.

read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com