Saturday, August 27, 2016

Rapid Reviews: Don't Breathe and Florence Foster Jenkins

There horror genre has been exploding recently. James Wan has taken haunting and possession films to a whole new level while an impressive string of clever premises have surfaced in films like The Babadook, It Follows, Lights Out and Fede Alvarez's new endeavor, Don't Breathe. Alvarez is best known for his 2013 gory and visceral remake of the genre classic Evil Dead. While he tones down the violence in his latest work, he still develops another winning recipe that propels him among the best contemporary horror directors.

On the mean streets of Detroit a trio of friends earn their money through a seemingly flawless burglary scheme. And when news breaks of a secluded and blind war veteran sitting on a king's ransom, Rocky (Jane Levy) sees the opportunity as her way out of town. But on what's supposed to be their final robbery, they unlock a sinister secret and a freakish nemesis who refuses to let them make it out alive.

There's an unruly tension caked beautifully into Don't Breathe's moments of deafening silence. Fede Alvarez has mastered the art of suspense and uses it to perfection in this slightly tamed horror effort. Jane Levy proves to be a more than capable leading star as the genre's iconic damsel in distress. And while the scares are effective and the performances are adequate, Don't Breathe suffers greatest in its flawed writing. Timely conveniences and plot holes are to be expected in horror movies, and they are certainly evident here, but it's the film's overbearing and everlasting finale that disappoints the most. An endless game of cat and mouse ensues to a somewhat predictable conclusion, one less impactful and safer than I was rooting for. As advertised, there's a bit of a twist within the film and it adds a deeper and more gruesome element to the story. There are a handful of just utterly vile moments, not necessarily gory or violent, just flat-out gross. But if you're looking for some solid scares and exceptional suspense, Don't Breathe certainly won't let you down in that regard.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

It isn't always a desire, but it's definitely a requirement. Every year I'm obligated to watch any movie involved in the major categories at the Academy Awards. Rumors have been swirling around the Oscars' most recognized star, Meryl Streep, garnering her unprecedented 20th nomination for her work in Florence Foster Jenkins. Therefore, I forced to sit through one of 2016's most overrated and underwhelming films.

Streep stars as the wealthy New York heiress, Florence Foster Jenkins, who dreams of being a beloved Opera singer, regardless of her dreadful voice. While her husband (Hugh Grant) and fellow upscale friends encourage her unfitting goals with dishonest praises of her vocal talents, mainly to keep the ill older woman in good spirits, things get out of hand when Florence decides to rent our Carnegie Hall and perform for thousands of listeners who aren't "in" on the secret.

Director Stephen Frears received immense recognition for his 2013 Oscar nominated feature, Philomena. Although I found that feature to be a little overrated as well, it isn't riddled with nearly as many flaws and miscues as his latest work. For a running time just shy of two hours, Florence Foster Jenkins offers shockingly superficial characters. Instead of developing characters that the audience can connect with, the film turns off the viewer with a story of true elitism, one that even finds Florence's husband threatening a newspaper for printing a poor review. The film offers little more than a bland story that's nowhere near as comical as advertised and mounting minutes of Florence's intolerable singing. Florence Foster Jenkins is a terrible investment of your time and energy, In fact, it would be virtually unforgivable for the Academy to honor Meryl Streep's middling performance in the film. Hopefully, they'll look past her seemingly "automatic" status and award the nomination to a new (or familiar) face who truly deserves the recognition.

Stars: 1 star out of 4

Grade: D+

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