Friday, June 24, 2016
Rapid Reviews: Free State of Jones and The Shallows
After a surprisingly aggressive marketing campaign that forked over massive bucks to debut its trailer during the Super Bowl, Free State of Jones finally arrives in theaters this weekend. The historical drama brings together recent Oscar winner, Matthew McConaughey, with Seabiscuit and The Hunger Games director, Gary Ross. But despite all of the film's talented cast and crew, Free State of Jones reveals itself as a forgettable attempt at an epic untold tale.
The Civil War divides a nation during the 1860s and Newton Knight (McConaughey) serves as a battlefield nurse for the Confederate Army. While Knight is forced to witness the personal sacrifices of war first-hand, he decides to desert his fellow soldiers and goes into hiding deep in the swamps of Mississippi. During this time Jones recruits countless other deserters who help stand up to the Confederate Army and put an end to the war.
Free State of Jones is a massively outstretched biopic that clouds the legacy of its central character with an overly ambitious screenplay. Matthew McConaughey provides a fully committed performance that easily reinforces his superior talents within the industry. However, film's most monumental moment occurs with almost an hour left to go and makes for a truly anticlimactic experience. As both the director and screenwriter for Free State of Jones, Ross tries to interweave two different stories set generations apart. Yet, neither story is told to the best of its ability and, as a result, the film suffers greatly from this glaring mistake.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4
Veteran action and horror filmmaker, Jaume Collet-Serra, returns this weekend with the survival thriller, The Shallows. It's really a simple script from the mind of budding scribe, Anthony Jaswinski, and starring the blonde beauty, Blake Lively. And although The Shallows clearly isn't anywhere near the quality of Spielberg's classic shark hunting tale, Jaws, the film manages to provide adequate thrills and worthwhile tension.
Following her mother's losing battle with cancer, a med student named Nancy (Lively) venture's to the same tropical paradise her mother visited before she was born. Nancy enjoys a majestic day of soaking in some sun on the beach and surfing until a monstrous shark chases her onto a rock 200 yards from shore. She must battle in a game of wits with this cunning predator in order to survive the fast approaching high-tide that will force Nancy back into the shallow waters.
The Shallows serves as a unique blend of survival and horror genres. Serra manages to provide some excellent suspense, but it occasionally feels wasted on a weak PG-13 MPAA rating. Lively certainly convinces in her leading role as a resourceful combatant to an enormous predator of the ocean. Yet, The Shallows suffers from typical thriller cliches such as nonsensical characters who are supposed to represent help, but fall victim to their own idiocy. Furthermore, the film's finale is riddled with question marks as it feels completely unbelievable in retrospect. Yet, I will admit that the execution of this ending is exhilarating in the moment. The Shallows is far from a must-watch film, but it manages to accomplishes its goals rather well.
Stars: 2 stars out of 4